Japan coach tells players to express themselves against Lions

·2-min read
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph (left)

Japan coach Jamie Joseph wants his team to express themselves in the nation's first fixture against the British and Irish Lions at Murrayfield on Saturday.

It is the first international for the Brave Blossoms since they lost on home soil to eventual champions South Africa in the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals.

Joseph faced the Lions five times during their 1993 tour of New Zealand, starting all three Tests in the All Blacks' back row and also representing the New Zealand Maori and Otago.

Otago beat the Lions 37-24 while the All Blacks won the Test series 2-1.

"Playing a Test match for the All Blacks against the Lions, rather than playing for your province like Otago or Maori All Blacks, is a totally different level of pressure and expectation," Joseph said on Friday.

"For the Otago v Lions game that we won there was no pressure and we were full of excitement. We had a great rugby team but we didn't feel the burden of expectation.

"That allowed us to express ourselves and play. That learning is something that I want to be able to give our players in some way, shape or form.

"If we play to our potential, then we create opportunities. If we create opportunities and put on pressure, then there's an opportunity to win the match and it's all on."

Joseph played 20 Tests for the All Blacks before a move to Japan, where he was capped nine times.

The 51-year-old said there would be no change to the crowd-pleasing high-energy style play they deployed to great effect at the 2019 World Cup.

"The brand of rugby that we play in Japan is based on the type of players that we have," said Joseph.

"We played differently to a lot of the other teams at the World Cup which created a big following for us, not just within Japan but outside it too.

"But if I was coaching a different team and their skill-set lent itself to a different type of rugby, then that's the type of rugby we would play.

"It has always been like that in Japan. We are a lot smaller than most international sides but we are very determined with a high skill level and high fitness levels."

The match in Edinburgh is the curtain-raiser for the Lions' South Africa tour, which includes three Tests.

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