Rugby: France draw shows Japan on the right track ahead of 2019 World Cup on home soil

Japan captain Michael Leitch (second left) and other members of the men's national rugby team walking off the pitch following a friendly match against France on Nov 25, 2017.
Japan captain Michael Leitch (second left) and other members of the men's national rugby team walking off the pitch following a friendly match against France on Nov 25, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Skipper Michael Leitch said Japan were growing in confidence and Saturday's (Nov 25) draw with France illustrated a change in mentality for their players as they prepare to host the 2019 World Cup.

Japan dominated France throughout the game and were on the verge of a historic win at the U Arena only for Yu Tamura to miss a simple conversion in the final stages to let the hosts off the hook with a 23-23 draw.

"The mindset of the Japanese players has changed," Leitch said.

"We are playing with a lot more confidence. Today's performance showed what we can do and we are only going to get better. We had our chances but couldn't execute," the New Zealand-born forward said after the Test.

The Brave Blossoms have not managed to beat a tier one side in seven attempts since their stunning victory over the Springboks at the last World Cup.

The result left Japan with one win, one loss and one draw in the Test window after a heavy defeat to Australia in Yokohama and a victory over Tonga in France.

"I am disappointed for the team, we deserved to win," said Japan coach Jamie Joseph.

"We haven't been that successful against tier one sides since 2015, so this is a step in the right direction."