And panic sets in…

7 09 2007

John Kirwan - Japan’s coach

John Kirwan remains up-beat.
He’s about the only one… Saturday 8th of September Japan’s “Brave Blossoms” National Rugby Team take on the second-ranked team in the world, Australia’s Wallabies.

This could possibly be one of the worst drubbings the tournament will see – as Australia will play what coach John “Knuckles” Connolly sees as his strongest squad, given it’s the first game of the tournament for both teams. Australia’s rated as a high chance of eclipsing the 142-0 thrashing the Wallabies handed out Namibia at the last World Cup.

Still, Kirwan understands that for the Japanese to achieve their goal of two wins for the tournament, then they have to avoid getting too badly beaten by Australia – just for morale’s sake.

Japan play Fiji four days after (Fiji’s first game), and this is a game they’ve targetted as ‘winnable’. Given the short turn-around betweent the games, Kirwan has to be careful of the players for the Wallabies match – end result is that Australia will face what’s almost certain to be Japan’s ‘B-side’…

It all adds up to a monumental headache for Japan, and whilst Kirwan talks a good fight, I think Japan are a few years away from beating teams like Fiji. Canada’s a possibility, but even then… a bit of a longshot.

Here in Japan, the feeling’s a lil’ weird. The Japanese almost always get right behind their sports teams… but there’s a total lack of awareness of even the existence of this World Cup group. And that’s a pity. The Top League Rugby here is well-attended, and rugby’s a growing sport here. Certainly not on the same level as baseball or soccer, but getting up there. There was more of a buzz on the qualification run – where Japan were destroying the rest of Asia – than there is for the World Cup.

Whatever the result will be, I’ll be watching it. Stands to be a huge game from the perspective of an Australian living in Japan.

They definitely have a way to go – both on the field & off…
But bring on Game 1.

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