Japan coach Jamie Joseph promised the hosts would “give 150 percent” to hit their target of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals after naming his 31-man squad on Thursday.
The Brave Blossoms will be at full strength when they face Russia in the tournament’s curtain-raiser in Tokyo on September 20 after talismanic captain Michael Leitch returned from injury at the recent Pacific Nations Cup.
“The team has set a goal of making the top eight for the first time in the history of Japanese rugby,” Joseph told reporters.
“The staff and players will give 150 percent – we’re under no illusions how difficult that is but it’s definitely our goal. The moment of truth will be upon us shortly.”
“Our game is based around speed, skill and structure,” added the former All Black, whose team limbers up for the World Cup with a “must-perform” Test against two-time champions South Africa next week.
“But the key difference this year is we are fit enough now to play that game. We’re training at a level of intensity that’s 25 percent higher than our matches — I think that’s our key weapon.”
Japan famously won three games at the 2015 World Cup under Eddie Jones, including an astonishing 34-32 victory over the Springboks.
Currently ranked ninth in the world after capturing their third Pacific Nations title, the Japanese also take on Ireland, Scotland and Samoa in Pool A as they target a place in the knockout stage for the first time.
They will be boosted by their success at the Pacific Nations, where they beat Fiji (34-21), Tonga (41-7) and the United States (34-20).
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