Beat US and Japan will be team of tournament: Jones

Akihito Yamada scoring the first try for Japan in their comfortable 26-5 Pool B win over Samoa on Saturday in Milton Keynes.
Akihito Yamada scoring the first try for Japan in their comfortable 26-5 Pool B win over Samoa on Saturday in Milton Keynes. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Japan coach Eddie Jones believes a win over the United States this week will entitle his side to be the team of the tournament even if they miss out on a historic place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

The Australian hailed his men after their 26-5 win over Samoa on Saturday, their second win of the pool, having opened with the greatest upset in World Cup history - a 34-32 victory over South Africa.

"If we win three games, we will be team of the tournament," he said.

Saturday's win put the Japanese back in contention for a place in the last eight - a perfect boost for the domestic game ahead of their hosting of the tournament in 2019.

They trail Scotland by just two points going into the final round of Pool B games.

Japan will next be looking to beat the US on Sunday to keep the pressure on pool leaders South Africa, and Scotland.

"We play the USA; let's hope Scotland do the right thing to Samoa next week," said Jones. "We don't control those things. We always said we came to this tournament with two targets. One, to be the team of the tournament and, second, to make the quarter-finals."

Jones, who steps down after the campaign ends to take over South African Super Rugby franchise Western Stormers, said the impact of their exploits back home has been phenomenal.

"If you look at the history of Japanese rugby, we have won one World Cup game in 24 years," said Jones, who is half-Japanese. "We have just doubled that. We have changed the history of rugby in Japan.

"Twenty million people watched the game against Scotland, they even opened the ground for the fans to watch back home.

"Five years ago, there would be 4,000 people in there and now they are opening the stadium when we are not even there. That's a pretty considerable change."

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer is content to allow Japan to continue earning the plaudits while his side fly under the radar.

"We're at our best if we've been written off," he said, after they held off a fightback by Scotland to win 34-16 in Newcastle on Saturday.

If South Africa, with three bonus points, beat the US in their final pool game on Wednesday, they will qualify for the quarter-finals.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2015, with the headline 'Beat US and Japan will be team of tournament: Jones'. Print Edition | Subscribe