30 Sep 2019

Rugby World Cup: Japanese fans reactions to history-making victory

12:39 pm on 30 September 2019

Fans of Japanese rugby have been talking about their hopes, surprise and even tears at the sensational win over Ireland at the Rugby World Cup.

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Japanese fans after their side's 19-12 win over Ireland. Photo: RNZ / Joe Porter

RNZ rugby reporter Joe Porter was in a fan zone in Oita, Japan talking to Kiwi fans and followers of the Brave Blossoms as they first gained parity with world number two team, Ireland, and then drew ahead to win 19-12.

The shock win is still reverberating around world rugby.

"I just cried," said one Japanese fan.

"I had tears. I was crying."

Another cheering fan said that world rugby had been just been rocked by the result.

"It made history for Japan. New history is just beginning," he said.

Japanese fans should know; during the last Rugby World Cup the Blossoms beat the Springboks in the so-called Brighton Miracle. Saturday's result was the Shizuoka Shock.

Elsewhere, fans told Reuters they could hardly believe the result - and apologised for not having faith in the Japanese team.

"I couldn't sleep last night," said Tokuo Ukai, a 55-year-old who works for an electronics parts maker, his voice still hoarse from intense cheering at the stadium.

"I did not think they were going to win. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I almost wet my pants," he said. "I want to tell the Japanese team that I'm sorry I didn't have faith in them."

The Brave Blossoms had never before beaten Ireland, a team ranked number two in the world until recently.

"What's amazing was they played the game believing they will win, although people including me, did not really think they stood a chance," said 63-year-old retiree Tomoyoshi Ito.

University professor Shunichi Takekawa said he had just become a rugby fan.

"The form they showed in withstanding Ireland's fierce attack was impressive. I want them to make it to the finals."

Kiwi rugby fans in the Oita fan zone were equally wild about the result. One fan told RNZ that it is a game he will remember for the rest of his life.

"I have never felt an atmosphere like that.

"I never expected this when I turned up to watch the game. If they had got within 10 points, I'd have been happy. Never would have thought they would beat the number two team in the world."

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Japanese fans after their side's 19-12 win over Ireland. Photo: RNZ / Joe Porter

The expat Kiwis in the crowd were also stunned as their second home went top of pool A. The result blows pool A wide open with Japan now a chance of qualifying top, meaning the All Blacks could face Ireland in the quarterfinals.

All Blacks fan Matt, who has a Japanese wife and family, was thrilled with the Brave Blossoms upset and with Samoa, Scotland and Ireland all still a chance in pool A, it could well end up being a Japan-New Zealand quarterfinal.

"It's not good for the All Blacks because we are probably going to have to play Ireland in the quarterfinals," he said. "But it is so good for world rugby."

Another Japanese fan, Taka, would love to see that eventuate.

"That has been one of my dreams! I have been waiting for it as a rugby fan."

Some of the fans included Fijian Itu, Tongan Alisi and Samoan Chris, and they brought some Pasifika passion and energy to the Japanese crowd.

Chris admitted to havign divided loyalties for when Japan play Samoa in pool play. Japan now turn their attention to next weekend's clash with Samoa where a win would all but seal the Brave Blossoms first ever trip to the World Cup quarterfinals.

"I contemplated this. I knew this was a day to come. My left side is going to be blue for the boys in blue, Manu Samoa. And on my right side I have got to show some love to my guys over here in Japan."

Japan suffered a mauling when they played the All Blacks in a Rugby World Cup match back at the 1995 Cup - 145-17. The last time the two teams met, New Zealand won 69-31 in Tokyo last year.

- RNZ/Reuters

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