BRAVE BLOSSOMS vs FIJI
(Written by AZUL: August 16, 2023)
This was the fifth match of the Japan national rugby team’s training programme before the start of the RWC 2023 in France. The opponents for this match were the powerful FIJI national team, who are ranked 10th in the world. The Japanese national team is currently ranked 14th in the world, so this was a match against a superior team.
The Japanese national team’s results so far this season were as follows
Round 1 (8 July) – VS ALL BLACKS XV: 6-38 ●
Round 2 (15 Jul) – VS ALL BLACKS XV: 27-41 ●
Round 3 (22 July) – VS SAMOA: 22-24 ●
Round 4 (29 July) – VS TONGA: 21-16 ○
The Japanese national team’s record so far has been poor, with one win and three losses. Finally, in the fifth round, the Japanese team got their first win over the Tongan team. Can the Japanese national team win their final domestic match?
A packed house of 22,137 spectators gathered at the Chichibunomiya Rugby Ground to cheer on the Japan national team. The daytime temperature was a killer 35°C, but it was a night game. Nevertheless, by kick-off the temperature had dropped to 28°C, making it somewhat more comfortable for the spectators.
Before the match, the national team players who were not playing in the day’s game held a rugby class at the venue for children selected by lottery as a fan service.
The Test match ceremony was held before the day’s kick-off.
Following the national anthems of the two opposing nations, a pre-match War Cry, typical of the Pacific nations in the Southern Hemisphere, was performed – in Fiji’s case, CIBI.
It really set the mood before the decisive battle.
Here is the latest information on the two teams that played on the day.
First of all, let me introduce the Visitor Team, the Fiji national team.
The FIJI team has achieved top 8 results in two RWC tournaments, RWC 1987 and RWC 2007. The FIJI team has also won the world’s highest number of 7-a-side rugby championships, including the Olympic Games. The Fijian Dodgers are known for their transformational style of play, which has earned them the nickname ‘Fijian Magic’, with all players, including the FWs, making decisive runs to enthrall spectators, both friend and foe alike.
From 2022, Fiji will compete in Super Rugby, the world’s strongest league, as Fijian Doulua, giving Fiji players the opportunity to practise at a high level and raise the level of their national team’s ability.
Today’s starting line-up is as follows.
** Player to watch **
BEN VOLAVOLA. 191 cm, 95 kg, 32 years old. Position = SO. has been in command of the Fiji national team for three consecutive World Cups, RWC 2015, 2019 and 2023. His long-range kicking from his height is a powerful weapon for the Fiji team. He is also an excellent offensive and defensive player with long passes, big steps, hard tackles and offload passes using his size to his advantage.
Next, we would like to update you on the Japan national team Brave Blossoms.
Although the team has been losing in training matches since July, they have been steadily strengthening on the defensive side of the field. However, there are few opportunities to see the attack using the whole ground, which is a weapon of the Japan national team. Also, several of the main players have been injured and their recovery
Today’s starting line-up is as follows.
|3||Asaeli Ai VALU||187cm||115kg||34||25|
** Player to watch **
Jone NAIKABULA. 177 cm, 95 kg, 29 years old. Position = WTB. team = Toshiba Brave Lupas. from Fiji. A new addition to the national team this season, he was selected for the 7-man Japan national team for the Tokyo Olympics and is an outstanding try-getter and decisive player. He has also saved the team from danger on numerous occasions as a last resort when opponents have slipped behind their defensive nets. Having been used in consecutive starts for Japan, he is gradually fitting into the Japan team and is expected to play more and more for RWC 2023.
Now, let the match begin. The kick-off time for the day was 19:16.
Fiji, in past RWC matches, have always gone all out from the start of the game and attacked, so for Japan team the key to the game will be how far they can be held back.
4 minutes into the first half:
Japan kicked off to start the game. The kicker is WTB MASIREWA, as both WTBs of the Japanese national team are from Fiji and are thought to have strong feelings for their home country for this match.
After the kick-off, the Japanese team pushed hard to get in front of the opposition in-goal, but the high defensive ability of Fiji’s players prevented them from scoring a try. In a densely contested battle, Fiji team won the ball back and CTB NAYACALEVU got behind the Japanese defence and, using his running ability, ran through the enemy line to score the first try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-7.
7 minutes into the first half:
During an attack by the Fiji team, Japan’s flanker LABUSCHAGNE commits an infringement by hitting an opponent head first and is sent off with a red card. This meant that the national team had to play with 14 players until the end of the game, one less than their opponents, for the first seven minutes of the first half. LABUSCHAGNE will also be suspended for the next three matches, meaning they will not make it to RWC 2023 and could be left out of the final squad.
The Japanese national team has played Samoa and Tonga so far, and while these two teams play hard contact with their players’ physicality, Fiji, also an island nation in the southern hemisphere, played a completely different style of rugby. The Fiji team played a style of rugby where they didn’t crowd the field, but formed a quick back line, and everyone ran and connected.
And while Fiji used to be poor at set plays, they now outplayed the Japanese teams. That is, they pushed and won in the scrums and won the ball quickly in dense battles. This is the result of their participation in Super Rugby.
17 minutes into the first half:
From a scrum in front of the enemy in-goal, the Fiji team’s FWs repeatedly attacked the side and scored a try in the middle right of the enemy in-goal in the fifth phase. In contrast to the Japanese team’s inability to break Fiji’s day defence no matter how many times they tried, the Fiji’s FWs also showed their power over the Japanese team. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-14.
38 minutes into the first half:
So far in this match, the Japanese team had not shown much in attack. Furthermore, they were clearly outclassed in set-piece play, especially in the scrums. Fiji had a chance to set up their own scrum in front of the opposition in-goal, which they pushed forward and SH KURUVOLI scored a try on the right side of the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-21.
The first half ended with this score. The Japanese team had little to show for their efforts in this match, as Fiji’s strength was evident. Can the Japanese team stop Fiji’s momentum in the second half?
Let’s start the second half.
16 minutes into the second half:
As the Japanese team approached the enemy’s in-goal, Fiji won the ball back and SO VOLAVOLA kicked a very long kick from in front of their own in-goal, which went all the way into the enemy’s in-goal. This happened twice more and the Japanese FWs became increasingly fatigued.
Just as Fiji team were on the verge of scoring a try, the Japanese team managed to hold them off and kicked back into enemy territory, but when Fiji lost possession, the Fiji team deployed from there and substitute SH ROMANIE broke through the Japanese defensive line to score a try at full stretch under the enemy goalposts. The try was scored.
The atmosphere was now such that the Fiji team’s momentum was unstoppable. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 0-28.
31 minutes into the second half:
The Japanese team, in a poor position, deployed from deep in their own half, and CTB OSADA took possession of the ball and ran nearly 70 metres on his own through Fiji’s defensive line, closing in on the opposition in-goal. However, he was caught out and stopped by the Fiji team’s defence player. However, CTB OSADA’s fierce run gave the Japanese team momentum and after this play, from a scrum on their own ball, WTB NAIKABULA received the ball and broke through Fiji’s defence to score a try in the middle on the left. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 7-28.
37 minutes into the second half:
The Japanese team, perhaps buoyed by their earlier try, launched a series of attacks from deep in their own half towards the end of the match. Once intercepted by Fiji’s WTB WAINIQOLO, it looked as if a try had been scored, but the try was cancelled because the Fiji team had committed an infringement before the play. After a reorganisation, the Japanese team gradually closed in on the enemy in-goal with a series of attacks, culminating in WTB MASIREWA scoring a try in the left corner of the enemy’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 12-28.
41 minutes into the second half:
The Japanese team launched an attack from the centre scrum, but a passing error gave the right of attack to the Fiji team. The horn sounded for the last play, but the Fiji team attacked in quick succession, trying to score a try, and broke through the Japanese defensive line. A converted goal after the try was also successful, making the score 12-35. The match ended here.
The Japanese national team showed their mettle towards the end of the match, but the strength of the Fiji team left a lasting impression. The current Fiji team has a good chance of kicking off the powers at RWC 2023 and making it to the final tournament.
In contrast, the Japanese team’s urgent task is to improve the level of coordination in their attack.
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