Japan suffered a second defeat against Ireland in as many weeks, losing the contest 35-13 at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.
The Brave Blossoms showed much more passion and aptitude this time round, especially in the second half, but a sluggish start to match, made worse by handling errors and misplaced passes, gave the visitors an unassailable lead at the break and a Japanese comeback failed to materialise as the match drew to a close.
"It was very hot out there and the players were fatiguing reasonably early in the game, so it was great to get a good start and to hang on at the finish," said Irish coach Joe Schmidt.
Jamie Joseph has rung the changes ahead of Saturday’s clash against Ireland, with veteran Luke Thompson coming out of retirement and starting in his first game since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Japan play their final spring test match against Ireland at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday, after putting in some indifferent performances so far in the Asian Rugby Championships, and against Romania and Ireland.
Japan were on the receiving end of a humiliating 50–22 home defeat at the Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka, which leaves the Brave Blossoms under no illusions about the tough task they face with just two years remaining before the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
A second string Irish side, missing eleven players due to the British and Irish Lions tour, scored seven tries against the hosts, in an impressive performance of pace and power.
Japanese Head Coach Jamie Joseph has made five changes ahead of the Ireland clash in Shizuoka's Ecopa Stadium on Saturday, with experienced fly half Yu Tamura and winger Kotaro Matsushima back in the starting line-up.
The Brave Blossoms will have to make do without the services of the captain Harumichi Tatekawa, winger Akihito Yamada and veteran lock Hitoshi Ono, who are all out injured.
But with a weakened Irish side, missing eleven players due to the Lions tour in New Zealand, Japan has a real chance of pulling off an upset.
Japan were made to work hard for their 33-21 win against Romania on Saturday but came out worthy winners at the Egao Kenko Stadium in Kumamoto.
After stretching out into a 33-9 lead shortly after half-time, thanks to Jumpei Ogura's boot and tries from Michael Leitch, Akihito Yamada and Kenki Fukuoka, the Brave Blossoms nearly crumbled under the pressure of a resurgent Romanian side late on.
The Brave Blossoms head to Kumamoto for their clash against Romania on Saturday afternoon with a strong Sunwolves' presence and a few surprising decisions being made by the Head Coach, Jamie Joseph.
With Harumichi Tatekawa, Shota Emi and Hitoshi Ono omitted from the matchday squad, and with fullback Kotaro Matsushima, loose forward Hendrik Tui and flyhalf Yu Tamura dropping to the bench, the team is far from full strength.
Jamie Joseph named a strong squad for the spring internationals today, with some familiar faces returning for the Brave Blossoms, but also some notable exclusions.
Michael Leitch, who last played against the USA in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and who is currently playing for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, makes a return to the squad. He will be joined by fellow overseas loose forwards Amanaki Mafi and Hendrik Tui who have performed well in Australia so far this season.
The majority of the squad is unsurprisingly made up of Sunwolves' players, with Yusuke Niwai, Shota Emi, Derek Carpenter and William Tupou all joining the squad for the first time after impressing during the Super Rugby campaign.
Things were going so well for Mano (Lomano Lemeki). In 2016 he represented the Japan Sevens team at the Rio Olympics, narrowly missing out on a medal and shocking the world with a victory against New Zealand.
In autumn, he made his full test match debut against Argentina and capped off the performance with a try in the final minutes of the match. In the following game against Georgia, he went one better, scoring two tries and showcasing his unbelievable pace and power. People were sitting up and taking notice of the New Zealand born but now Japanese citizen, and were eagerly anticipating the Wales match the following weekend.
Rich Freeman: "When Japanese rugby is played well, then it's probably the best rugby in the world to watch."
“I just remember when Michael Leitch turned that penalty down, I was pulling my hair out, thinking, ‘Oh my God! You’ve just turned down the chance to draw with South Africa’. And then slowly you started thinking, ‘Hold on, this is possible...if they go left, this is on.’ When it happened - mayhem! There were guys in the press box next to me absolutely balling their eyes out,” says Rich Freeman.
In the rugby world, there are moments which stick long in the memory. Who can forget that Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in 2003, or Nelson Mandela wearing a Springboks jersey in 1995? Last week, was the one year anniversary of Japan’s famous win against South Africa, with people around the world reminiscing about one of the biggest upsets in sporting history. We caught up with Rich Freeman, the Kyodo news journalist, who was covering Japan’s exploits inside the Brighton stadium on that day.