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Brave Blossoms fever: Japan boilover grips imagination of Tokyo

Yuoko, a saleswoman from the nearby Ikeda department store, was devastated that she could not find a jersey or T-shirt in her size. “I did not know about rugby until Japan beat South Africa and now they beat Ireland, I wanted a souvenir,” she said.

Dubliner Tommy Byrne put on a brave face at Ireland’s loss. He was more concerned by his Japanese wife Mayumi’s excitement as she swept up all manner of gifts, including cuddly toys of the tournament mascots.

Supporters at a public-viewing event celebrate as Japan score a try against Ireland.

Supporters at a public-viewing event celebrate as Japan score a try against Ireland.Credit:AP

“I want to buy them for our daughter, Sakura,” Mayumi said. “It means cherry blossom, so I think the Brave Blossoms will be special to her when she grows up. When she is big, I will remind her how Japan beat Ireland today.”

At the Park Hyatt hotel, a favourite tourist site due to its role in the 2003 film Lost in Translation, concierge Kenta said he was “proud of the team, but we still don’t understand the rules. We were checking the scores but we have to keep working. That is our way.

We found it a bit strange that there was an Australian family watching who were shouting for Japan.

“We don’t stop and put on the TV the way they might in Britain or Ireland because we need to respect our guests. We did not want to be disrespectful to any Irish guests either. We found it a bit strange that there was an Australian family watching who were shouting for Japan.”

Meanwhile, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt hinted that he was unhappy Australian referee Angus Gardner after his side’s shock 19-12 loss to Japan, saying he could understand why his players might feel “frustrated” at the penalty count.

Ireland conceded nine penalties to Japan’s six, with Schmidt noting that the sour taste left in Irish mouths was “not too dissimilar from the last time we had this referee”.

However, the head coach – who defended his decision to name an unchanged pack six days after their last game – called the Brave Blossoms as a “real handful”.

The Japan team wave to supporters at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka.

The Japan team wave to supporters at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka.Credit:AP

“Japan did not exceed my expectations,” Schmidt said. “Unfortunately, they met them. They showed intensity, skill and energy throughout. We controlled the first quarter when we scored two good tries but after that we struggled to contain them. The defeat is tough for us to take but we have to roll up our sleeves and prepare for Russia [in Kobe on Thursday].”

On the refereeing, Schmidt added: “We’ll go back and have a look at it. I certainly understand the frustrations of some of the players and in discussing things with them, based on what I saw on the monitor, it’s not too dissimilar from the last time we had this referee.

“We’ll go back through the official channels and make our comments to the refereeing body.”

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Schmidt defended Joey Carbery’s decision to kick out after the 80-minute gong had sounded, apparently to preserve Ireland’s losing bonus point, rather than try to score a length-of-the-field try which could have forced a draw. “Securing a bonus point could be really important because it puts us second in the group, a position that would put us in the quarter-finals,” he said.

There was some speculation that Carbery had not actually intended to find touch as he could simply have put dead behind him. But Carbery himself dismissed that.

“I knew we were still in with a losing bonus point and I didn’t see too many other options on, so I just put it out,” he said. “I didn’t hear anything [calls from teammates]. I didn’t want to risk it with a short kick or anything like that and concede. At the time, I thought it was the right option.”

The Telegraph, London

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