Despite Loss, Coach Joseph Leaves Legacy of Strong Unity in Japan Rugby Team

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph, center, talks to players after their loss to Argentina at the Rugby World Cup in Nantes, France, on Sunday.

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph had nothing but praise for his team after being knocked out of the Rugby World Cup with a tough 39-27 loss to Argentina in Nantes, France.

“It’s a shame, but the players gave it their all,” the 53-year-old Joseph said. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

Joseph put high priority on building team unity, and set the tone for the tournament by having all of the coaches write notes to players that were passed to them prior to the first match against Chile before heading to the stadium.

“Play with heart until the end,” “We want you to enjoy it,” were among the sentiments.

Said one player of the message he received, “It made me feel that I wanted to live up to the coaches’ expectations, and raised my spirits for the game even more.”

The team, which had been underperforming prior to arriving in France, showed its true potential and came away with a confidence-boosting victory over Chile.

To further build unity, the team continued what has become a tradition of performing a “ritual” in the locker room to honor those players who stood out in a match.

Joseph, a New Zealand native who played forward for the All Blacks, relocated to Japan later in his career and appeared for the Brave Blossoms at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Upon retiring, he gained coaching experience in leagues around the world before becoming hired as Japan’s head coach in 2016.

From the beginning of his tenure, he has operated under the conviction that “the emphasis is on achieving results as a team, rather than on the success of individual players.”

In the previous World Cup in 2019, he led host Japan into the quarterfinals for the first time in its history.

Joseph will step down from the position with the conclusion of this World Cup, but he will leave a lasting legacy. He has had immeasurable success in bringing together players from diverse backgrounds and creating a family-like bond.