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Eddie Jones admits he used to call Japan a ‘joke team’

England head coach Eddie Jones has admitted that he used to consider Japan to be a “joke team” before their improvements in recent years.

Japan have competed at every Rugby World Cup, but had one just one game out of 24 in the showpiece tournament before Jones himself coached them to a remarkable win against South Africa in 2015.

Jones was speaking to Channel 4 about Japan’s improvements in recent years ahead of their game against the British and Irish Lions, and admitted his shock at their rapid improvement.

‘They were a joke team at the World Cup.’

“It’s almost like a dream, mate. I used to call them a joke team. They were a joke team at the World Cup. Their average score against a tier one country was 85-0. 85-0,” Jones stressed.

“You can’t score that many points in training usually. Teams used to score that against Japan in the World Cup.

“We were lucky enough to have some good results when I had them and then Jamie [Joseph] and Tony Brown with Michael Leitch as captain have improved the side even further. They’ve done a fantastic job.”

Japan’s recent change in fortunes.

Japan were routinely hammered by tier one sides at the Rugby World Cup, with a 145-17 loss to the All Blacks in 1995 the worst of a number of sorry results for the Brave Blossoms.

Jones took over as Japan’s head coach in 2012 and quickly changed the their fortunes as he guided the team to arguably the biggest upset in the history of the sport when they beat the Springboks in 2015.

Japan also beat Samoa and the USA at the World Cup that year, but narrowly missed out on the quarter-finals after they suffered a loss to Scotland just four days after their win against the Springboks.

The Japanese went one step further under Jamie Joseph at the 2019 Rugby World Cup on home soil, as they defeated both Ireland and Scotland in the group stages to qualify for the quarter finals.

South Africa got their revenge on the Japanese to end their World Cup dream in that quarter final, but Japan’s first appearance in the last eight was a clear sign of their improvement nonetheless.

The Brave Blossoms haven’t played a test match since that World Cup due to issues created by the pandemic, but Jones is confident that they will prove to be a handful for the Lions on Saturday.

Eddie Jones on Japan: ‘They think they can beat anyone.’

“They’ve got some new talent coming through. They’re confident now – they think they can beat anyone,” Jones said.

“Whereas previously they’d go into a test match and all they’d be worried about was that it doesn’t get over 85-0. Now they’re seriously confident about their own ability.

“They play a unique style of game that’s fast and quick that no other side in the world plays. They’ve got great technical ability at the breakdown and they’ve got a great game plan with Jamie and Tony Brown.

“So they’re going to be very difficult to beat. They’ve been in camp now for six or seven weeks so they’re going to be fit, they’re going to be prepared and it’s going to be a great warm-up game for the Lions.”

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