Japan will enter the Rugby World Cup believing they have made the necessary preparations to achieve their goal of a berth in the quarterfinals, head coach Jamie Joseph said Saturday.
At an event to launch their World Cup campaign in Tokyo, Joseph said the entire squad shared a sense of purpose ahead of Japan's curtain-raising Pool A clash against Russia on Sept. 20.
"We are a well-prepared team, both physically and mentally," Joseph said. "Our players, our coaches, are totally aligned. We understand what our roles are, whether it's the coaching staff, or the medical staff, or the players."
After winning the Pacific Nations Cup last month, Japan finished their World Cup preparation with a 41-7 loss to South Africa on Friday, in a match that showed the gulf that still remains between the Brave Blossoms and rugby's elite nations.
But Joseph said the test against the Springboks at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium had provided his side with the ideal rehearsal for the World Cup on home soil.
(The Brave Blossoms wave to fans at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Sept. 7, 2019.)
"I thought it was exactly the type of physical match we needed after the (Pacific Nations Cup), and obviously a step up," he said. "The biggest lesson for us is that when we make a small mistake against a Tier 1 team, they will punish us and score points."
With world No. 2 Ireland heavy favorites to top Pool A, No. 10 Japan's hopes of advancing most likely rest on beating Scotland, currently ranked seventh, in Yokohama on Oct. 13.
Joseph said he and his players know the importance of a strong performance at the Sept. 20 to Nov. 2 World Cup for sustaining interest in rugby among the Japanese public.
"Everyone understands how important this event is going to be for (Japanese rugby) but none more than our staff and the players themselves," he said.
"We want to make everyone proud...and we will be doing our best to make sure that happens," he added.
Captain Michael Leitch echoed Joseph's sentiments, saying the team was ready to execute its game plan after ticking all the boxes in the lead-up to the tournament.
"We have prepared well for our goal of making the quarterfinals. We just want to approach the World Cup one match at a time and play to our ability," Leitch said.
Veteran forward Luke Thompson, who is set to appear at his fourth World Cup, said he had never seen a Japan team as well prepared as this year's side.
"Of all four World Cup teams of which I've been a part, this team is the best prepared and has the best spirit. We are very confident and looking forward to getting out there," he said.
While Japan suffered injury scares involving two key players against South Africa, Joseph said the team had "good news" about the condition of winger Kenki Fukuoka and No. 8 Amanaki Lelei Mafi.
"Kenki has got a bit of bleeding in his calf muscle. It isn't as serious as he thought early in the game," Joseph said. "As I understand it, it's a Grade 1 muscle strain. Mafi has got a (sore) shoulder but he'll be fine."