Japan to call on spirit of 2019 and brotherhood for key clash

Japan to call on spirit of 2019 and brotherhood for key clash

With six days to go until their winner-takes-all Rugby World Cup pool game against Argentina, the Brave Blossoms are hoping the tight bond that has developed among the players will help them reach the quarterfinals.

A similar dynamic took hold four years ago on home soil, when Japan went into their final pool game against Scotland knowing they had to win to advance.

"About half the squad are the same and the atmosphere is exactly the same," prop Asaeli Ai Valu said Monday at Stade Ernest Wallon.

And if anyone was in any doubt how the players are feeling, Valu simply said "We are going to win," when asked what his vow was before the game.

That self-belief is, according to fellow prop Craig Millar, down to the way head coach Jamie Joseph allows the team to relax off the field.

"One thing I've noticed in the World Cup is we've really enjoyed the special moments we've had as a team," Millar said.

"We've connected really well at the hotel and I know Jamie views it as a really important factor. Off the field we are really tight. We watch games together and have barbecues together. At times like this it is about your culture and that drives a team performance."

Millar knows Joseph better than most, having first been coached by him back in 2014 with the Highlanders, and the loosehead prop said "knowing when the time is right to put pressure on players and knowing when the time is right to celebrate success" were two of his key attributes.

Valu said the main focus so far this week in training had been defense.

"Our opponents are very big and run straight, so we are focusing on how to stop them," he said.

And that, said Millar, comes down to technique.

"We need to stop their momentum and that means throwing bodies in front of them, being square and not allowing them easy meters. Doing that will put them under pressure and make them give us the ball back."

When the Brave Blossoms do have the ball, they will need to make the most of it.

"Without giving away our plan to Argentina, we are out there to win obviously, so we're not going to be going out there as a defensive team," Millar said. "We are going out to score tries for sure. We've got to win the game first."

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