Scottish legal talk 'undermines' Japan's World Cup run, fumes Joseph

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japan coach Jamie Joseph on Friday blasted reports of a formal Scottish protest if this weekend's Rugby World Cup clash is called off because of a powerful typhoon.

The former All Black said talk that Scotland could take legal measures if Sunday's crunch Pool A game against the hosts is cancelled had "undermined" Japan's sizzling start to the tournament.

World Cup organisers have already pulled the plug on Saturday's England-France and New Zealand-Italy matches as Typhoon Hagibis sweeps towards Japan's east coast.

After reports that the Scottish Rugby Union was considering legal options in the event of a cancellation that would see them eliminated, Joseph arrived at a news conference to name his team in a dark mood.

"I feel they've undermined the achievements of the Japanese national team and the significance of Sunday's Test match against Scotland for Japan," he said.

"We've played and won three Test matches and that's put us in the best position in our pool," added Joseph.

"I'd like to remind everybody that hasn't been a fluke -- this team has been in camp for 240 days this year alone."

In one of four changes to the side who started last weekend's 38-19 win over Samoa, Joseph handed the captaincy back to talismanic flanker Michael Leitch as the Brave Blossoms chase a first-ever spot in the World Cup quarter-finals.

But his withering opening remarks set a grim tone, with Joseph adamant Japan would not be happy reaching the last eight by default.

"Everyone in our squad wants to play the Test match," he said ahead of the biggest match in Japanese rugby history.

"It's important for us to wake up on Monday morning and understand we are a worthy top-eight team."

- 'Achieving something great' -

Organisers will assess the impact of the typhoon, set to strike the area on Saturday, before deciding to whether go ahead with the match at 7:45 pm (1045 GMT) on Sunday.

Japan won three matches at the 2015 World Cup but failed to reach the knockout stage after a 45-10 loss to Scotland.

But they have captured the hearts of the baseball-mad nation after beating Russia 30-10, stunning Ireland 19-12 and thrashing Samoa 38-19.

"My team is motivated by achieving something great -- not avoiding an embarrassment," insisted Joseph, who brought in winger Kenki Fukuoka and hooker Shota Horie among key changes as Japan chase top spot in the group.

"All the media reports in the last few days are about an uncontrollable thing like the typhoon. They've really lost their way in terms of the significance of this Test match for us," he added.

"The reports I've read are about legal proceedings around the typhoon -- to give a team the opportunity to play a Test match."

Three teams -- Japan, Scotland and Ireland -- are battling for two quarter-final places from Pool A.

"I feel that we've got the most to lose because we're in the best position to top the pool," said Joseph.

"Ireland could win tomorrow (against Samoa) and our game could be called off -- everyone's saying that would be great for Japan, but it's not great because we're top of the ladder."

Japan (15-1)

William Tupou; Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Kenki Fukuoka; Yu Tamura, Yutaka Nagare; Kazuki Himeno, Pieter Labuschagne, Michael Leitch (capt); James Moore, Luke Thompson; Koo Ji-won, Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki

Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Uwe Helu, Hendrik Tui, Fumiaki Tanaka, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryohei Yamanaka