Rugby: It's hammer time as Japan turn to new tools to fuel unlikely World Cup bid

Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph leading a training session at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium in Tokyo on Oct 17, 2019, during the Rugby World Cup.
Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph leading a training session at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium in Tokyo on Oct 17, 2019, during the Rugby World Cup. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan are the darlings of the Rugby World Cup with some very unusual training methods - but none more bizarre than smacking their coach on the head with a plastic hammer.

The tournament hosts have been a revelation, storming to four straight wins to top Pool A and reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

But as they prepare for Sunday's (Oct 20) clash with South Africa in Tokyo, video footage has emerged of veteran hooker Shota Horie whacking Japan coach Jamie Joseph in a game of rock, paper, scissors.

With the protagonists separated by a table, the loser has to grab a scrum-cap to cover his head before his opponent can reach for hammer and hit him.

Japan's heroes have been playing the "fast-twitch" games to improve hand-eye communication on their way to famous victories over Russia, Ireland, Samoa and Scotland.

Joseph's coaching staff are also writing daily brain teasers on the whiteboard at gym sessions to help stimulate the grey matter.

The hammer video, posted on Twitter by fly-half Ryoto Nakamura, shows Horie landing a clean blow before Joseph wins the next round and gets a lick in himself - with so much force the hammer flies out of his hand.

"His one wasn't quite so playful," joked Horie, who won the decider to get in one last bash before raising his arms in triumph.

"But in the end, some Japanese skill win it for me."