State of the Nation: Japan

Date published: November 5 2015

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As we do at the end of a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Next up, Japan!

What a historic tournament it was for Japan, who stunned the world on the opening Saturday as they beat South Africa in the biggest upset in World Cup history.

Under the tutelage of Eddie Jones they went on to beat Samoa and USA in convincing style, but became the first team to go out in the group stages despite winning three games, in large part because of a big loss to Scotland.

That came four days after the South Africa win, and the way they faded in the final half-hour showed how much of a factor fatigue was in the result.

While the scheduling put paid to their quarter-final hopes, Japan grabbed the imagination with their ambitious play, most notably turning down a draw against the Boks to chase the victory.

What was very clear was how well coached they were, with Jones, ably supported by forwards duo Steve Borthwick and Marc dal Maso, doing a fantastic job.

That is a concern with Jones stepping down to take over at the Stormers, while Borthwick has joined Bristol as their forwards coach.

Dal Maso is signed up longer term, but there is a real concern that the Brave Blossoms could take a step back, not the ideal situation with the next World Cup in Japan in 2019.

In terms of a replacement for Jones, Fiji boss John McKee's name has come up regularly and a decision is expected to be taken before the end of the year.

Japan will have a team in Super Rugby for the first time next season, but for now the Sunwolves appear to be desperately short of quality in comparison with the rest of the teams in the tournament.

It doesn't help that the likes of Michael Leitch, Fumiaki Tanaka and Ayumu Goromaru will all be playing elsewhere. The first two ply their trade in New Zealand already, while Goromaru is joining the Reds.

It's great experience for them, but their absence from the Sunwolves side really hurts. Powerful number eight Amanaki Mafi might also depart for France, which would take away another weapon.

There are some promising players coming through, and the increasing number of high profile players heading to the Top League should help boost the sport's profile, as of course will hosting the World Cup.

From a logistical point of view, however, there are real concerns about how the national team will cope in the coming seasons.

This was Japan's greatest World Cup ever, now the pressure is on for them to make the most of the opportunity and build on it.

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