RUGBY | Japan begins preparations for 2023 Rugby World Cup with Rout of Uruguay

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Japanese Racing Association

Japan kicked off their preparations for next year’s Rugby World Cup with a convincing 34-15 win over Uruguay on Saturday 18 June in Tokyo.

With a combination of up-and-coming players and veterans, Jamie Joseph’s Brave Blossoms were in control from the start at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground.

First-half attempts by Koga Nezuka and Tevita Tatafu gave the 2019 World Cup hosts a 15-3 lead at half-time.

Kosuke Horikoshi struck early in the second half in Japan’s third try and captain Yu Tamura converted to give the hosts a 22-3 lead.

Diego Magno crossed over 20 minutes from time to keep things interesting, but substitute Takeshi Hino scored Japan’s fourth try in the 63rd for an insurmountable 27-8 advantage.

Hino added another try in the 72nd minute to seal victory for the hosts, who will meet Uruguay again on June 25 in Kitakyushu. A late try from Uruguay’s Manuel Ardao, converted by Felipe Etcheverry, completed the goal.

“We had a lot of players making their debuts so it was a good result for us,” Tamura said. “We only had two weeks to prepare, so it was quite an achievement. We want to keep moving forward.”

In their first Tokyo Test since the 2019 World Cup, Japan got off to a flying start when Test debutants Nezuka crossed in the 10th minute.

With Lucas Bianchi as the scapegoat, a penalty kick from Tamura made it 8-0 eight minutes later.

“I was a little nervous, but with Tamura and the other defenders in charge, we were able to relax as the game progressed,” said 23-year-old Nezuka.

The visitors scored in the 34th minute from a penalty by Etcheverry, giving them an 8-3 lead.

Tatafu scored from about 20 yards in the final minutes of the first half for Japan’s second try.

A look back and a look ahead

The senior team had not played since the 29-20 loss to Scotland in Edinburgh in November 2021.

The Brave Blossoms surprised many by reaching the last eight of the 2019 World Championships, which they hosted.

Japan won 4-0 in the group stage before losing to eventual winners South Africa in the quarter-finals.

At the 2023 World Cup in France, Japan was drawn in Pool D with top division teams England and Argentina. Samoa and a team from America to be determined will also be in the group.

The Brave Blossoms meet France on July 2nd in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture and on July 9th in Tokyo.

The Japan Rugby Football Union also said Japan will play France in a test on November 20 in Toulouse, after taking on England on November 12 in Twickenham.

Follow the rugby coverage here on JAPAN Forward’s dedicated sports website, Sports Look.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a veteran journalist who has covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here.

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