Japan head into the Rugby World Cup knowing the nation expects nothing less than a place in the quarterfinals.

Three wins at the last tournament may have made the world take note of the Brave Blossoms, but ultimately Eddie Jones' side failed to do what they set out to do -- make the knockout stage. And the 2019 team will be doing all they can to right that wrong under his replacement, Jamie Joseph.

"The team has set a goal of making the top eight for the first time in the history of Japanese rugby," Joseph said when announcing the 31 players that will wear the red and white stripes. "The staff and players will give 150 percent -- whether that's enough only time will tell."

The Brave Blossoms come into the tournament knowing that every decision the Japan Rugby Football Union has made over the last 10 years has been with a top-eight spot in mind, and Joseph has staked his reputation on his side achieving just that.

From the creation of the Sunwolves Super Rugby side to the delayed start of the 2019-2020 Top League season, the constant message since Japan was awarded the right to host the tournament back in 2009 has been that their goal is to make it out of the pool stage.

That means not only beating Samoa and Russia in Pool A but upsetting either Ireland, Scotland or both.

This year, Joseph pulled a number of the nation's top players from the Sunwolves to ensure they are in peak condition come Sept. 20 when the hosts kick off the tournament in Tokyo against Russia.

And the time spent on the training paddock developing team spirit will, he hopes, hold them in good stead.

"This is a group that will do anything to achieve their goal. They are very tight as a group, are aligned and ready to go," he said.

The former New Zealand and Japan international's game plan is based on "organized chaos" with the Brave Blossoms looking to create, or make the most of, situations that allow them to attack off unstructured play.

Captain Michael Leitch's try against the United States in the Pacific Nations Cup in August was a perfect example.

A wayward kick allowed Kenki Fukuoka and Ryohei Yamanaka to use their pace to launch a counter-attack, Yutaka Nagare and Shota Horie followed up in support before Leitch finished things off 80 meters from where the move started.

The win over the Eagles saw Japan clinch the PNC, following triumphs over Fiji and Tonga in which Japan varied their game plan -- from a fluid running style against Fiji to a more orthodox kicking game against the Tongans -- with strong defensive performances thrown in for good measure.

However, the recent 41-7 defeat to South Africa in Kumagaya highlighted the issues when Japan's kicking game is not up to scratch. The Springboks scored four of their six tries from contestable kicks, as the Japan follow-up failed to put any type of pressure on the receiver.

That game also saw renewed questions as to why Joseph has omitted players such as flyhalf Takuya Yamasawa and winger Akihito Yamada, whose ability to create something out of nothing is in marked contrast to some of the players that have been picked ahead of them.

But, as he showed when winning the Super Rugby title with the Highlanders in 2015, Joseph has an ability to get the best out of players not deemed superstars.

Versatility is the key word for this squad, with the locks and flankers interchangeable and a number of the backs capable of playing a variety of positions.

Well-led by Leitch and senior players such as Kazuki Himeno, Fumiaki Tanaka and Luke Thompson, the Brave Blossoms will look to run every opponent off the park.

Thompson said that at 38 he is in the best shape of his life, no mean feat given how fit Japan were four years ago. And with a much improved mental approach thanks to the players' involvement in Super Rugby, the players are confident they can attain their goal.

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus certainly thinks a top-eight spot is possible for Japan, despite the one-sided scoreline when his team beat the hosts.

"They are a dangerous team and really challenged us," he said. "I really believe that if we progress from our pool there's a chance we may meet them again."

Joseph and the whole of Japan will certainly be hoping that is the case.

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