Japan spent all week saying they knew what England would do in Sunday's Rugby World Cup Pool D game, with assistant coaches Tony Brown and Shin Hasegawa both proclaiming "England have been playing the same style for 100 years."

The problem was, at the end of the day, the Brave Blossoms could not deal with it as they went down 34-12 on a hot and muggy night at Stade de Nice.

"You witnessed a team that gave it everything and did not get the reward they wanted," Japan defense coach John Mitchell said Monday morning, just a few hours after the team got back to their hotel in Monaco.

England's Jonny May is tackled by Japan's Dylan Riley during the second half of a Rugby World Cup Pool D match at Stade de Nice in Nice, France, on Sept. 17, 2023. (Kyodo)

As the former All Black pointed out, Japan had their chances, but while England "got something out of their territory, we were very unfortunate not to conclude on a couple of opportunities for us. That's the small margins in this level of rugby and tournament."

England dominated possession 66 percent to 34 and then kicked the leather off the ball to lead the territory stats 61 to 39.

It was not an imaginative approach and even led to their own fans booing them. But it was effective.

In a tale of what was to come, Semisi Masirewa failed to gather a kick ahead in the third minute and knocked on behind his own line, allowing England to eventually open the scoring through a penalty by man-of-the-match George Ford.

"It was probably not the prettiest watching it," said Ford. "It's really hard to play with the ball in those conditions. These late kick-offs, the ball is greasy. You've got to find ways to break a team down, but we got there in the end."

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Ford and his England teammates praised their opponents for their resilience, with Joe Marler saying, "We knew Japan would never give up. They live by their name of the Brave Blossoms. They just keep going."

But if truth be told, Jamie Joseph's team were their own worst enemy.

"We made mistakes when we really needed to score," said prop Keita Inagaki. "Although we (kicked) points, we couldn't capitalize and score tries...If we can't get our own ball (at the line-out), we can't play the way we planned."

England, meanwhile, played exactly how they planned, and while Kotaro Matsushima and Jone Naikabula had their moments dealing with the England high bombs, Japan were not able to recycle the ball quickly enough to launch any counter-attacks.

Japan (L) and England players form a scrum during the second half of a Rugby World Cup Pool D match at Stade de Nice in Nice, France, on Sept. 17, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Toward the end of the game, Matsushima, Dylan Riley and Lomano Lava Lemeki gave glimpses of what might have been. But Japan's support play was far too slow, and with the line-breaker isolated, any hopes of a try faded.

"Those were key moments that we needed to execute at this level," rued Mitchell.

In defense, Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne led the way with 19 successful tackles with Michael Leitch just one behind, while Jack Cornelsen once again did a lot of often unappreciated hard graft, both at the breakdown and in disrupting the English line-out.

"We lost today, but it's not over," said Inagaki. "It's important to prepare well for the next match and win against Samoa."

A win over the Pacific islanders on Sept. 28 in Toulouse could set up a winner-takes-all clash with Argentina on Oct. 8 in Nantes, and Mitchell said the key will be reminding the players there is still plenty to play for.

"The boys have belief in the way they play, and eventually, if they remain committed to it, there's no reason why we can't get the right result against Samoa," said Mitchell. "This is a tournament, and you need three wins to get a fifth game, so nothing has changed for us."