Perhaps the best thing that Japan can hope to get out of the World Cup is losing their record of conceding the most points in a game at the tournament (145 to New Zealand in 1995). There is every chance of that thanks to the presence of Georgia and tournament newcomers Portugal this year. But then Japan have to ensure that they do not allow Australia to better the All Blacks 12 years ago when they meet the Wallabies here at the Stade Gerland today.
John Kirwan, the coach of Japan, sounded a trifle optimistic when he said: "We have to enforce our game on them. If we can do that for 80 minutes, I think we can be competitive." However, at least the former All Black winger, who tasted success with New Zealand in the inaugural World Cup in 1987, is trying to instill some self-belief into his charges.
Kirwan was in charge of Italy for the 2003 tournament in Australia and was able to coax two group stage victories from the Azzurri. That will not be so easy with Japan. They have won just one match in 16 World Cup games since 1987, a thumping 52-8 victory over the even more hopeless Zimbabwe team in 1991.
For Japan to produce anything like an upset they will have to focus all their energies up front and try to deny Australia's potent backs as much possession as possible.
Australia are fielding a full strength side that includes their captain Stirling Mortlock, who has recovered from a back injury. So in the end all Kirwan can offer his players is: "We need to play with courage, belief and a lot of heart." And his final word to the team before they go out onto the pitch will be: "Shinjiru [believe]."
Australia: C Latham; A Ashley-Cooper; S Mortlock (capt), M Giteau, L Tuqiri; S Larkham, G Gregan; M Dunning, S Moore, A Baxter, N Sharpe, D Vickerman, R Elsom, G Smith, W Palu. Replacements: A Freier, G Shepherdson, H McMeniman, S Hoiles, B Barnes, D Mitchell, M Gerrard.
Japan: T Kusumi; T Kitagawa, K Taira, N Oto, H Onozawa; K Ono, Y Yatomi; M Yamamoto, T Inokuchi, R Yamamura, T Kumagae, L S Vatuvei, Y Watanabe, T Sasaki (capt), H Kiso. Replacements: Y Matsubara, T Soma, H Ono, H Makiri, T Yoshida, B Robins, K Endo.Reuse content