RUGBY | Japan falters in second half after losing 42-23 to France

After two comfortable victories against Uruguay, Japan faced reality on Saturday July 2 in a 42-23 loss to Six Nations champions France.

Japan coach Jamie Joseph made six changes to the side that beat Uruguay 43-7 on June 25.

Joseph recalled South Africa-born Wimpie van der Walt to second tier where he combined with Australian lock Jack Cornelsen. Atsushi Sakate captained Japan for the second time at hooker.

The changes appeared to be paying off as the Brave Blossoms, aiming for their first-ever win against France, finished the first half in sweltering conditions at Toyota Stadium in Aichi Prefecture tied 13-13.

But world number 2 France, who will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, came out strong after the break and showed why they will be one of the favorites to lift the trophy next year on home soil.

France withdraw after the break

Matthis Lebel scored France’s second try five minutes into the second half and Melvyn Jaminet converted to give his side a 20-13 lead.

Damian Penaud ran his second try of the match and Jaminet scored the extras in the 59th as France took a 30-16 lead.

Another Yoram Moefana try just three minutes later made it 35-16. Pierre Bourgarit’s converted try in the 68th widened the advantage to 42-16.

Siosala Fifita crossed Japan’s second try after the mermaid and Seungsin Lee converted to complete the score.

The two teams will play again on July 9 at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Japanese players react to Loss

“We played well in the first half but were overwhelmed after the break,” said Japan’s Keita Inagaki. “We need to reduce our penalties in the next game to get a better result.”

“It’s honestly frustrating,” Japan captain Sakate told Kyodo News. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we also managed to play the style of rugby we wanted.

“I want to continue to prepare for the coming week with the aim of winning [the second test].”

It didn’t take long for France to get on the scoreboard. Penaud got through just three minutes and Jaminet converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

Tevita Tatafu crossed the goal line for Japan’s first try in the 14th and Lee kicked the extras to give the hosts a 10-7 lead.

The France team had to deal with difficult COVID-19 protocols when entering Japan. The team had to undergo three days of quarantine and testing after arriving.

Joseph’s team was also struggling with COVID issues. Flyhalf Takuya Yamasawa withdrew on Friday, a day after veteran hooker Shota Horie, scrumhalf Naoto Saito and fullback Ryuji Noguchi were also ruled out.

History of the Japan-France competition

The last time the two countries met they drew 23-23 in November 2017.

Before that, France had beaten Japan in each of their previous nine meetings, dating back to their first game in 1973, in Bordeaux.

Japan were coming off two dominating victories over Uruguay last month, winning 34-15 and 43-7 respectively.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles here.