Sean McMahon reporting from Shizuoka.
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph told a packed media room in the bowels of the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa that his side had plenty of belief that they could shock the rugby world by beating Ireland.
Japan produced a marvellous performance as they claimed an astonishing 19-12 victory and it could have been more if Keith Earls didn’t produce a superb last-gasp tackle at the death after Jordan Larmour’s pass was intercepted.
“There was a lot of belief around,” Joseph said.
“In what we were doing and what we wanted to do, and we showed that today.
“The Irish are a quality side and we have been preparing for this game a hell of a lot longer than the Irish have. The last year at least, if not the last three years. The Irish have been thinking about this game since Monday.”
It’s important to make clear that Joseph doesn’t mean this in a disrespectful way. It’s simply stating fact. Ireland had been focussed on beating Scotland, which they did convincingly but Japan have long had Ireland in their sights.
One of Japan’s greatest strengths tonight was how they stopped Ireland from getting over the gainline and generating momentum and Joseph said the tactic of using two players to chop tackle was incredibly effective.
“A big focus for us was to put two in the tackle because we knew how hard they would come at us. They surprised us with their kicking game to our wings and they caught us out a couple of times.
“When we went ahead the Irish tried to take us on physically and we were ready for that. We were able to hold out a very tough Irish attack.”
This win has changed the complexion of Pool A but Joseph was keen to stress that they won’t get too carried away with themselves as a loss to Scotland later on could still mean they don’t progress into the quarter-finals.
This happened in 2015 as Japan won three pool games, including that famous win over South Africa, but failed to reach the quarter-finals.
“We’ve discussed that as a team. We are just going to enjoy tonight as a team. We could be in a situation where we win tonight and lose to Scotland and not go through. That is what happened last time, so we won’t get ahead of ourselves.”