Journey for the Brave Blossoms to bloom again on the World Cup stage continuesOct 16, 2023
The Brave Blossoms arrived in Toulouse with the ambition of emulating their Rugby World Cup 2019 achievement of reaching the last eight. Michael Leitch, the 34-year-old veteran who has seen the good and bad of Japan, spoke on behalf of all Japanese rugby fans about the desire to "qualify for the quarter-finals overseas, to create new history".
But after the relentless battle with Argentina in Nantes, it was Los Pumas who secured second place behind England in Pool D. Many tears were shed on the field on Sunday, but the legacy of the battle-hardened veterans like Leitch will be carried on by some promising young talents. The journey for the Brave Blossoms to bloom again on the World Cup stage continues.
Two great examples of letting actions speak louder than words. Kazuki Himeno, the number eight who leads the team, put his body on the line consistently and incredibly completed all 56 attempted tackles, as well as winning two breakdown jackals. Japan fly-half Rikiya Matsuda also kicked 11 of his 12 attempted conversion kicks at goal in RWC 2023.
Japan were a whisker away from qualifying for the quarter-finals, only trailing Argentina by a point at half-time in their final pool match. The team wanted to reach the last eight again, having achieved the feat for the first time at home in 2019, but they performed valiantly and have once again raised the profile of Japanese rugby.