2019 World Cup
Hosts: Japan Dates: 20 September to 2 November
Coverage: Full commentary on every game across BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

If Saturday in Japan was all about the shock of the home nation’s win over world number two Ireland, Sunday was about the how and what next.

There have been times, travelling round this country in the past three weeks, when the World Cup has felt like a warm-up act for the Tokyo Olympics that follow next summer.

Not any more. With every newspaper front page in the country plastered with images of the Brave Blossoms and their celebrating fans, even the talk in England’s training camp was dominated by the land of the scything run.

is England’s forwards coach out here. Four years ago he had the same role with Japan, once again under , as they pulled off a remarkable 34-32 win over two-time world champions South Africa.

If that game became known as the Miracle of Brighton, and is now the subject of a feature film, the Shizuoka Sensation came as far less of a surprise to the well-travelled Borthwick.

“They play smart, they’ve got speed, they’ve got talent,” says Borthwick.

“Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown are very good coaches. But the big thing is the tenacity with which the team plays. They’re very impressive in that regard.

“They are much better physically prepared than they used to be. They’re smarter tactically than they were. They’re good to watch and they play to their strengths.

“We saw when England played them last November how good they are. That first half was a tough half.

“When you see the excitement in the stadium, the passion the supporters have, that’s the same wherever you go in Japan.”

Steve Borthwick

Joseph and Brown, both former All Blacks, spent time with Jones and Borthwick in the build-up to the last World Cup. They then spent a week watching England’s head coach at work with his team last autumn.

The question now being asked of the current Japan coaching set-up is how much further they might go. Despite beating the Springboks in 2015, Japan failed to qualify from the group stages, their defeat by Scotland critical.

This time they have Scotland in their sights. Win their remaining group games and they could meet the All Blacks in the quarter-finals. Finish second and it could be South Africa once again.

“A big area of development before 2015 was getting the expectation that the team could win, so seeing them go out the way they did on Saturday was great,” says Borthwick.

“Now they’re effectively backing up 2015 and they’re building on what has been done before.

“There’s a lot of competition for sport over here. Look at the support gets. , in a lot of ways, dropped down quite a bit prior to 2015.

“When you look at their World Cup record before then it didn’t make pretty reading. The team in 2015 felt the responsibility for the sport in general in Japan, and you saw that growth.

’s got a long history here. The success of this Japan side could be really fantastic – there will be a lot of young kids watching that game yesterday who now want to play .”

Graphic advertising that BBC Radio 5 Live will have live commentary of every match at the Rugby World Cup

Borthwick and the rest of the England party now move to Tokyo, travelling on the Shinkansen express train after being given two days off by Jones.

While several players met up with their families and others went shopping in Kobe’s backstreets and nearby Osaka’s malls, centre will spend the later part of the day facing a World citing commission after his controversial tackle on Will Hooley in Friday’s win over the USA.

Francis, the fourth player to be cited in the World Cup’s opening week, is facing the possibility of a three-week ban if found guilty.

But team-mate Courtney Lawes, the tallest member of England’s 32-man squad, insists that there is no issue with the new tackle regulations amongst the players.

“I’m not entirely sure it’s being made out to be a bigger thing than it is – we’re taught how to tackle and how to tackle well,” says Lawes, who has been playing at the highest level for a decade.

“Generally everyone in this team goes low, goes for the chop tackle. Occasionally you try to hit the ball, which is perfectly legal.

“It’s just every now and then people make mistakes. You can get a high tackle through human error.

“We’re not generally running around trying to take people’s heads off. We’re trying to play safe, play fair, but mistakes happen.

“The game needs to be safe and should be safe. People are trying to put in big hits, which is good for your team, but we’re trying to make good legit tackles.

“I don’t tackle high, so it’s not something I’m really worried about. I’m going to go about my business and let the bigwigs decide on whatever rules they want to.”

England play Argentina in Tokyo next Saturday before completing their group games against France the following weekend.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here