Rugby: England steams Japan up during World Cup preview in Twickenham


Japan was overpowered and outmaneuvered by England in a 52-13 loss on Saturday, underscoring the daunting task facing the Brave Blossoms at next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The two sides will meet again in Pool D during the tournament which kicks off in France in September, where Jamie Joseph’s men will also face heavyweights Argentina in their bid to advance to the quarter-finals.

After taking on the All Blacks in a 38-31 defeat two weeks ago in Tokyo, the Brave Blossoms gave up momentum and try-scoring chances by awarding 10 penalties to England at Twickenham, including some at crucial moments of the match .

“We made a lot of mistakes and mistakes,” said Japanese captain Atsushi Sakate. “We gave away so many penalties and gave them a chance with their lineout, then attacked in the maul… so I think that’s the only thing we need to solve.”

Japan’s Kazuki Himeno (L) runs with the ball during the first half of their rugby test match against England at Twickenham Stadium in London on November 12, 2022. (TBEN)

Fullback Freddie Steward played for former Japanese head coach Eddie Jones, scoring the opening try and putting pressure on the visitors under the high ball, while fly-half Marcus Smith and outside center Guy Porter each accounted for two of the seven English tries.

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Substitute scrum half Naoto Saito scored Japan’s only try in the 58th minute, got an offload from Warner Dearns and scrambled across to make it 38-13 after Lee Seung Sin’s conversion.

When the teams last met in Twickenham four years ago, Japan took a 15-10 lead at halftime, before finally succumbing 35-15. But this time there was no fear for the hosts, who led 24-6 at halftime and effectively ended the game with consecutive tries early in the second period.

Naoto Saito scores a try for Japan during the second half of their rugby test match against England at London’s Twickenham Stadium on November 12, 2022. (TBEN)

After a 30-29 loss to Argentina last weekend, which Jones called “not good enough”, England were in the driver’s seat from kick-off.

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After Owen Farrell launched them off the board with an early penalty, Steward crossed for their first try when they quickly went wide from a maul in the 12th minute. The 21-year-old fullback also had a hand in their second attempt, releasing to set the stage for Smith to cross into the corner.

Consecutive penalties at the end of half-time allowed Japan to reduce their lead to 17-6 via the boot of Takuya Yamasawa, who scored his second three-pointer after England wing Jonny May was sent off to the penalty box.

The visitors were unable to capitalize on the numerical advantage and gave England the opening for Porter’s try just before half-time with a turnover close to their own try-line.

Japanese Dylan Riley (L) runs with the ball during the first half of their rugby test match against England at Twickenham Stadium in London on November 12, 2022. (TBEN)

Ellis Genge mapped out eight minutes into the second half and Porter made his second attempt two minutes later to make it 38-6 after Farrell added the extras. A penalty try and a second five-pointer for Smith after scapegoating Japanese substitute Siosaia Fifita further extended the lead before the final whistle.

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“We were always on the back foot and lived on scraps a bit. You have to take your hat off to the England team when it comes to their defense,” Joseph said.

The former All Black, who led Japan to their best ever World Cup result, a quarter-final place on home soil in 2019, said his relatively young squad would learn a lot from the game.

“I still thought it was a really good game for us in terms of experience,” he said.

Related Coverage:

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