Eddie Jones believes Japan can keep alive their dream of reaching their first ever World Cup quarter-final when they play Samoa on Saturday.
However, the ‘Brave Blossoms’ coach said it was dependent on them staying in touch for the first hour as they did in their historic victory over South Africa and then striking the killer blow.
Pool B is in a state of flux and unpredictability with Scotland topping the table on a maximum 10 points from two games and South Africa second on seven.
One of those sides will drop points when they clash on Saturday which will propel the winner of Japan and Samoa – both on four points – right back into the mix for tickets to the last eight.
Samoa coach Stephan Betham, who has had to rouse his team after their 46-6 thrashing by South Africa last weekend, said the stakes are clear.
“It’s do or die for both teams and I’m sure they are feeling what we are feeling,” he said.
“It’s backs against the wall for both teams and whoever wins will have a great shot at making the quarter-finals.”
Jones, who steps down after the World Cup to take over at South Africa’s Stormers, has selected his most battle-hardened XV including caps record-holder Hitoshi Ono, who will stride out for his 96th appearance.
“It’s the most experienced team to ever play for Japan,” Jones said.
“We know we’ve got a big task ahead of us. If we can stick with Samoa for the first 60 then for the last 20 we should be able to come home pretty well.”
Jones, who has an excellent World Cup pedigree having guided Australia to the 2003 final and been an adviser to the triumphant Springboks in 2007, said that judging from the team selected by his Samoan counterpart, it was obvious the Pacific islanders are going for brute force over subtlety.
“They’ve picked an interesting team, they’ve left out their acknowledged fetcher (Jack Lam) and picked a very big back row,” said Jones.
“So there’s no secret as to how they’re going to play.”
Jones and Japan’s outstanding skipper Michael Leitch concurred that having shaken off the fatigue and mental effects of the 45-10 whipping they took at the hands of Scotland, a few days after the Springbok victory, there would be no excuses offered if they lose.
“The team is in excellent condition,” Jones said.
“The only thing we’re worrying about is the injuries we got from the Scotland game.
“We just need to manage those injuries.
“But apart from that, the physical conditioning of the players is first class. We don’t have any excuses for the game.”
Samoa: Tim Nanai-Williams; Ken Pisi, Paul Perez, Johnny Leota, Alesana Tuilagi;
Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali’i; Failfili Levave, TJ Ioane, Ofisa Treviranus (capt);
Kane Thompson, Teofilo Paulo; Census Johnston, Ole Avei, Sakaria Taulafo
Replacements: Motu Matu’u, Viliamu Afatia, Anthony Perenise, Jack Lam,
Vavae Tuilagi, Vavao Afemai, Mike Stanley, Rey Lee-Lo
Japan: Ayumu Goromaru; Akihito Yamada, Male Sau, Harumichi Tatekawa, Kotaro
Matsushima; Kosei Ono, Fumiaki Tanaka; Ryu Koliniasi Holani, Michael
Broadhurst, Michael Leitch (capt); Hitoshi Ono, Luke Thompson; Kensuke
Hatakeyama, Shota Horie, Keita Inagaki.
Replacements: Takeshi Kizu, Masataka Mikami, Hiroshi Yamashita, Justin
Ives, Amanaki Mafi, Hendrik Tui, Atsushi Hiwasa, Karne Hesketh
Referee: Craig Joubert (RSA)