MILTON KEYNES (AFP) – A Japan win over United States next week will entitle them to be team of the tournament even if they miss out on a historic place in the World Cup quarter-finals, said coach Eddie Jones.
The 55-year-old Australian heralded his side after their impressive 26-5 win over Samoa, their second of the pool having opened with the greatest upset in World Cup history a 34-32 victory over South Africa.
“If we win three games we will end up team of the tournament,” Jones said.
Saturday s win put the Japanese back in contention for a place in the last eight — a perfect boost for the domestic game ahead of their hosting of the tournament in 2019. They trail Scotland by just two points going into the final round of Pool B games.
Japan will next be looking to beat the United States to keep pressure on the pool leaders South Africa and Scotland.
“We play against the USA; let s hope Scotland do the right thing to Samoa next week,” said Jones.
“We don t control those things. We always said we came to this tournament with two targets.
“One, to be the team of the tournament and, secondly, to make the quarter-finals.”
Three wins would make them “team of the tournament,” he said.
Jones, who steps down after the campaign ends to take over South African Super Rugby franchise Western Stormers, said the impact their exploits had had back home had been phenomenal.
“If you look at the history of Japanese rugby, we have won one World Cup game in 24 years,” said Jones, who is half Japanese.
“We have just doubled that. We have changed the history of rugby in Japan.
“Twenty million people watched the game against Scotland, they even opened the ground for the fans to watch back home.
“Five years ago there would be 4,000 people in there and now they are opening the stadium when we are not even there. That s a pretty considerable change.”
Jones, who guided Australia to a heartbreaking defeat by England in the 2003 final in Sydney and was an adviser to the 2007 Springboks when they won the World Cup, poured praised on hisforwards coach former England captain Steve Borthwick.
“Our forwards were fantastic today. We shut Samoa out of the game with some set-piece dominance and our work in defence round the ruck was first class,” said Jones.
“England need to call him into their ranks, especially after tonight when we (Australia) pump (beat) England. His attention to detail is incredible. He has got the guys to believe that height is not a major factor in lineout.
“Our tallest lock is 6ft 4in, we are a very small team but we beat teams with our speed and movement, and Borthwick has been a driving force in that.”
Jones said that try-scorer Akihito Yamada would need to pass a head test to see if he would be fit for the final pool game.
“He looks all right, mate. He might be in line for an academy award,” he said laughing.
“He got knocked out, but he s recovered well so we will do the appropriate concussion protocol and he should be available for our next game.”
His inspirational captain Michael Leitch explained why he had opted to be conservative in the second-half and chose to kick for goal instead of going for a bonus point which could decide their fate ultimately.
“Samoa kept attacking and our legs were getting tired,” said the New Zealand-born flanker, who turns 27 on Wednesday.
“For 12 minutes they were going for a try. We just wanted to stay consistent.”