Rugby World Cup: Japan Bracing for Tough Battle Up Front against England

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japanese players practice a maul during a training session in Toulouse, France, on Wednesday.

TOULOUSE, France — Japan’s forward pack is determined not to shirk from the battle up front in the upcoming Rugby World Cup group match against England.

The Brave Blossoms’ forwards practiced scrums and mauls from lineouts during a training session open to the media in Toulouse, France, on Wednesday. England is renowned for playing a style of rugby that relies heavily on imposing physical dominance, but Japan assistant coach Shin Hasegawa, who is in charge of the team’s scrummaging, declared his forwards were up for the challenge.

“Scrums and mauls are so important,” Hasegawa said. “I don’t want our scrums to be defensive. I want our forwards to take the fight to England.”

England’s scrum dominated that of Japan’s in the early stages of their game last autumn. “That was one reason why we lost,” Hasegawa recalled.

Prop Jiwon Gu remembers the pain of that defeat and is determined to ensure there is no repeat on Sunday, saying: “We’re fixing what went wrong. I’m confident we can get payback.”

Gu did not train due to a right-knee injury suffered during a late tackle in the opening game against Chile. However, he remained upbeat about his chances of playing against England. “My condition is improving day by day,” Gu said. “I intend to play,”

Brave Blossoms captain Kazuki Himeno, who missed the victory over Chile with a leg injury, played a full part in the training session.