Fiji ‘on track’ for Rugby World Cup after beating Japan

Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui said his team was “on track” for the Rugby World Cup after beating Japan for their third win in as many weeks on Saturday.

The Fijians brushed Japan aside 35-12 in Tokyo to build momentum ahead of the tournament in France, where they will face Australia, Wales, Georgia and Portugal in Pool C.

Raiwalui’s side beat Tonga and Samoa on successive weeks before travelling to Japan and now head to Europe to face France and England in final tune-up matches.

The coach said he “trusted in all the players” and is looking to take things up a notch before the team’s World Cup opener against Wales on September 10.

“We’ve really worked hard on building the team spirit, building the team’s preparations,” said Raiwalui.

“We’re obviously very proud to get the three wins but we understand what the main focus is.

“Phase one, we’re on track and now we’ll start focusing on the next phase.”

Fiji scored three first-half tries and added two more after the break against Japan, who had loose forward Pieter Labuschagne sent off in just the seventh minute.

It was Japan’s second red card in three games, after former captain Michael Leitch was sent off in their defeat to Samoa two weeks ago.

It was also Japan’s last home game before heading to the World Cup, where they will face England, Argentina, Samoa and Chile in Pool D.

Head coach Jamie Joseph said his team would “have to be more accurate in the tackle” but praised his players’ reaction to the early setback.

“Yes we conceded points, but at the end of the day we still finished stronger than the Fijian team,” said Joseph, whose team scored two tries in the final 10 minutes.

“That’s the type of team spirit we need when we go to the World Cup.”

Labuschagne red

Fiji scored four tries in the first half-hour of their 33-19 win over Samoa the previous week, and they started quickly again against Japan.

Captain Waisea Nayacalevu stormed through the centre of the defence to score the opening try in the fourth minute.

Japan’s night went from bad to worse three minutes later when Labuschagne hit centre Vilimoni Botitu with a high tackle and was shown the red after a video review.

Eroni Mawi and Simione Kuruvoli scored further tries before the break, before Selestino Ravutaumada and substitute Frank Lomani added two more in the second half.

Raiwalui said his team were reaping the benefits of the Fijian Drua making their debut in Super Rugby last year.

“I think the Drua coming into the competition has given exposure to another whole group of players who were looking for opportunities,” he said.

“I think we will see the benefits from that team long into the future.”

Japan got two late tries from Jone Naikabula and Semisi Masirewa, both of whom were born in Fiji.

Japan will take on Italy away before playing their World Cup opener against Chile on September 10.

“Yes we have to be smarter and tougher at certain times of the game, but I thought we got a lot of those things right tonight,” said Joseph.

“It’s very hard to beat quality teams with 14 players.”

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