Wed, Sep 12, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Japan hoping to rebuild against Fiji

AFP , TOULOUSE, FRANCE

Japan will roll out their first 15 for their Pool B clash against Fiji on today after their second string suffered a 91-3 thrashing against Australia.

That was Japan's second-worst defeat in World Cup history following the 145-17 mauling to New Zealand in 1995.

Japan's coach John Kirwan blamed tournament organizers for his selection policy -- just as he did four years ago when coach of Italy -- claiming the short space of time between fixtures was unfair.

He preferred to keep his best players for a game against Fiji that Japan believe they can win, but only if they can keep going for the entire 80 minutes, a lesson former All Black legend Kirwan, a World Cup winner in 1987, says needs to be learnt from the Australia match.

"We tried to throw everything we had at Australia. When we got off the defensive line very quickly we were putting the Australian team under a lot of pressure," he said.

"That was the most pleasing for me. What we need to learn is to play hard for 80 minutes," Kirwan said.

One big problem for the Asians is that they have natural physical challenges that are difficult to surmount.

"We are physically smaller," said winger Hirotoki Onozawa bluntly, before adding: "We have an organizational style of play to make up for that weakness."

The two sides have met eight times before with Fiji winning on six occasions to Japan's two.

Fiji are certainly the favorites and harbor hopes of pipping Wales -- who were unconvincing winners over Canada on Sunday -- to second spot in the group, behind Australia who are widely expected to top the group.

But center Seru Rabeni said his side are not looking too far ahead.

"Our preparation will be no different to how we will prepare for our matches against Australia and Wales," he said.

"We are treating Japan as a very, very good team and they have come here to play as we have. Our goal is to beat them, which will be no different to what they want to do, so we would like to get out there and give it a go and come out there with a result," Rabeni said.

"For us we can't even start to look further into Wales if we do not do the job first against Japan. So we have to get that right, otherwise it will be of no use going against Wales if we lose to Japan," he said.

"I need to remind the boys of the job at hand and hopefully we can all look forward to Wednesday before going on to other games," Rabeni said.

Japan are on a record streak of 11-straight World Cup defeats, their last, and only victory coming against Zimbabwe by 52-8 in 1991.

Japan and Fiji met earlier this year with the Pacific Islanders winning 30-15.

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