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Japan Suffers Rugby World Cup Defeat to England in Nice

A scrappy, error-filled first 60 minutes gave way to a more open final quarter in the Rugby World Cup clash as England pulled away from the Brave Blossoms.



Rugby World Cup
Japan's Michael Leitch carries the ball in the first half against England in a Rugby World Cup match in Nice, France, on September 17. Leitch played in his 15th RWC match, setting a Japan national team record for most appearances in the tournament and surpassing former teammate Luke Thompson's record of 14. (KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - Japan Suffers Rugby World Cup Defeat to England in Nice

GLASGOW ― Japan fell to defeat against eighth-ranked England in its second 2023 Rugby World Cup match, dropping a 34-12 decision on Sunday, September 17 in Nice, France.

The result continued the run of the Brave Blossoms failing to defeat a Tier 1 opponent since the 2019 World Cup. It was the fourth official test match played between Japan and England. World No 14 Japan is yet to taste victory or score more than 15 points against England.

The game kicked off at 4 AM JST on Monday. It was a humid Sunday night in Nice, which made handling the ball difficult.

Rugby World Cup
Japan fans stand outside Nice Stadium before the match. (Stephanie Lecocq/REUTERS)

Indeed, the conditions contributed to what was a low-quality game for the most part. The match was still in the balance with 15 minutes to play, but it was England, energized by its bench players and playing some running rugby by this stage, which pulled away on the scoreboard to record a bonus point victory.

Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph was left to reflect on what could have been. "We created a lot of opportunities, we just made too many mistakes," he said, according to The Associated Press.

Joseph continued, "England put us under a lot of pressure but there were times I thought it was a real arm wrestle, we just needed to capitalize on those opportunities and we couldn't." 

England's George Ford scores a conversion kick in the opening half. (Peter Cziborra/REUTERS)

Mistakes and Kicking the Theme of First Half

If you like error-free, fluid rugby, the first 40 minutes wouldn't have been to your liking. And the fare served up in the opening half was pretty hard on the eye.

The mistake count began as early as the second minute. Brave Blossoms fullback Semisi Masirewa knocked-on in goal, presenting England with a close-range scrum. The scrum led to a penalty, allowing England fly-half George Ford to kick an easy three points to get the scoreboard moving.


Masirewa's bad start to the night soon got worse when he suffered an injury. He was replaced by Lomano Lemeki.

Japan was soon level thanks to Rikiya Matsuda's close-range kick. The Brave Blossoms had taken advantage of a wayward pass by England scrum-half Alex Mitchell to build an impressive 12-phase attack. England was penalized for being offside and the score was tied at 3-3.

During this period of the half, Japan had the better of the territory and it went ahead after Matsuda kicked another penalty.

Rugby World Cup
Japan's Rikiya Matsuda converts a penalty goal in the first half. (KYODO)

Key Error Gifts England a Try in Rugby World Cup Clash

With the two teams making handling errors, both were happy to kick the ball away. Japan kicked from hand 21 times in the first half. England selected that tactic on 19 occasions.

It was an accurate England kick that put Japan under defensive pressure on its own goal line. The lineout misfired and England number eight Lewis Ludlam gratefully accepted the gift to score an easy try.

Matsuda kicked another penalty to keep his tournament 100% record intact before an inexplicable Japan error on the stroke of halftime gifted England another three points.

With 15 seconds remaining in the half Japan panicked and kicked the ball out. From the resulting lineout England forced a penalty. Ford easily converted it.

It was very poor game management from the Brave Blossoms.

England led 13-9 at the break.

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.



Author: Colin Morrison

Morrison is a freelance sportswriter. Find his stories on SportsLook. Writing since 2016, Morrison's byline also appears on boxing website NYFights.com and multi-sports platform Spitballingpod.com. His main areas of interest are boxing, soccer, golf and rugby union. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on X (formerly Twitter) @Morrie1981.

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