England vs Japan: Brave Blossoms coach Jamie Joseph refusing to rise to Eddie Jones' pre-match barbs

Joseph has taken Jones’ comments – that England are going to smash Japan – in his stride ahead of Saturday's clash

Adam Hathaway
Thursday 15 November 2018 16:57
England v Japan: Eddie Jones explains how debutante Joe Cokanasiga has come out of his shell in training

Japan turned the rugby world on its head when they beat South Africa during the last World Cup and it will be an even more seismic shock if they do the same to England Rugby on Saturday.

The team that bashed the Boks 34-32 on the south coast in 2015 were coached by a man called Eddie Jones and wrote themselves into Japanese folklore.

Bookmakers are giving Japan a start of around 30 points on the handicap, which sums up what Japan have to do even against an England team showing wholesale changes.

Three of the heroes from that famous win against South Africa are named in the starting XV for this weekend’s game – captain and flanker Michael Leitch, wing Akihito Yamada and the brilliant scrum-half Fumiaki Tanaka – and they know all about Jones.

So does Jamie Joseph, the 29-cap former All Black flanker, who marked his only Test appearance at Twickenham, a 15-9 defeat to the hosts in 1993, with a controversial stamp on the England scrum-half Kyran Bracken.

Now 48, Joseph has mellowed with age and has taken Jones’ pre-match barbs – that England are going to smash Japan – in his stride. He is also a fully-paid up member of the Eddie Fan Club.

“We just play our game of rugby and the fact that England are targeting us physically is no secret,” said the New Zealander.

“It hasn’t changed our approach to the rugby but we are going to have to tackle them, aren’t we? We have to take that from them and throw something back.

“Eddie Jones is a master coach. He has coached, Japan, the Wallabies, he has won a World Cup. I don’t know what else he can do – he took a Japan side to beat a Tier One side.

Joseph said he isn’t getting dragged into Jones’ pre-match mind games

“I have had the pleasure and the opportunity to observe Eddie and he has welcomed me into his environments in past teams, I am really thankful to him. But we are up against him at the weekend but all of that counts for nothing for 80 minutes. He knows that because he is trying to wind us up.

“Some of our players are smaller, so we have to play our game differently because we have smaller men. We have an approach where we hope we can keep the game quick but sometimes size doesn’t work for you.

“The team is very aware that they are playing a team that in some circumstances should have beaten the All Blacks last week and the previous week, we lost to the All Blacks by some 30 odd points. We are realists.”

Yamada, 33, has scored 19 tries in 24 Tests and is approaching veteran status but Joseph says the reduced work load of the Japanese players knocks years off their age. He will be up against the rejuvenated Chris Ashton at Twickenham but Joseph is backing his man to deliver the goods.

“He has been in this situation many times before more than most Japanese players,” added Joseph.

“He has more than enough experience to deal with what is coming at Twickenham and will provide some speed and impact. I have got this rule with Japanese players, you give them minus five years they don’t play as much rugby as the English or the Kiwis or the Aussies so in my books he is about 27.

Yamada has scored 19 tries in 24 Tests for Japan

“He is a big game player. I will just take you back a couple of years in Wales when he scored a couple of tries – he loves the stage and you don’t get a bigger stage than Twickenham.

“He is very confident in his own ability. He has got a big challenge defending against those big wingers of England but he is looking forward to it.”

Yamada himself says the fact that Jones is on the front foot in the phoney pre-match war of words proves his old boss is up for the game.

“That means he is very excited too,” said the wing. “But is no problem we will just concentrate on our game and do what we do.

“As players we have confidence, we have experienced that moment against South Africa and now we are building a new system.

“He trained us hard and we changed our mentality, we knew we have to work hard and that is good for us.”

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