Japan are on track to achieve their best-ever Rugby World Cup result when the country hosts the tournament next year, New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said Saturday.
Following his team's 69-31 victory over the Brave Blossoms in front of a near-sellout 43,751 at Ajinomoto Stadium, Hansen said the home side showed plenty of positive signs against the world No. 1 All Blacks.
"I think Japan are getting better and better all the time," said Hansen, who coached the All Blacks to victory at the 2015 World Cup.
"Anybody that came to the game today would have enjoyed what they saw from Japan. (There was) a bit of razzle dazzle (and) quite a bit of physicality at times."
"I think they're building and trying to play a game of rugby that suits them, and if you get it wrong against them, they'll hurt you."
Japan ran in five tries, including one to debutant Jamie Henry, on the way to their best score in four tests against New Zealand.
"They haven't scored that many tries against the All Blacks in the past, but today they scored them and they scored some really good tries," Hansen said.
Hosting the World Cup will place an additional burden on Japan at the tournament, but they should look to use the pressure as motivation, according to Hansen, who has led the All Blacks since 2012.
"If they embrace that challenge, because it will be quite a lot of pressure, I think they'll go well," he said.
Despite being unlucky not to escape their pool in 2015 after finishing with an identical win-loss record as quarterfinalists Scotland, Japan will still need some good fortune to advance from a difficult group next year that once again includes the Scots, as well as Ireland, Hansen said.
"They're in an interesting pool, so it will be tough. But they were only one game away, only one try away, from getting out of their pool last time," he said. "We've seen them beat South Africa, we've seen them (draw with) France, so they're building momentum."
Hansen praised his opposite number for Japan, countryman Jamie Joseph, as well as assistant coach Tony Brown, saying they were moving the team in the right direction.
"They're coaching very well. (Japan's) forward play was very good, their scrum was great...Their back play was inventive. Both of those men are good coaches. And you are very lucky to have them coaching in Japan," Hansen said.