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England Hammers Japan to Spoil the Return of Eddie Jones as Brave Blossoms Coach

Jones fielded a largely young and inexperienced side and England scored eight tries against the Brave Blossoms for a one-sided win at National Stadium.

England scored four tries on either side of the break on Saturday, June 22 en route to a 52-17 win over Japan in the return of Eddie Jones as coach of the Brave Blossoms.

Jones, in his first match in charge in his second stint with Japan, fielded a largely young and inexperienced rugby side. And it was apparent from the outset against a strong England team.

"It was a pretty tough game for us today," Jones said, according to The Guardian. "England are a strong, powerful team, but I was really pleased with our set piece work. We've been working on little things in our attack which created opportunities, but we weren't able to finish them."

Japan got on the scoreboard first thanks to a Seungsin Lee penalty two minutes into the match at Tokyo's National Stadium. But the lead was short-lived.

Chandler Cunningham-South scored the first of four first-half tries in the 14th minute as the visitors seized the momentum on their way to a 26-3 lead at halftime.

Alex Mitchell ran in England's fifth try three minutes after the break to make it 31-3. Ben Earl crossed in the 50th minute as the visitors widened their advantage to 38-3.

Brave Blossoms
Japan's Koga Nezuka dives over the goal line for a try in the second half. (KYODO)

Brave Blossoms Score Their First Try in the 65th Minute

Marcus Smith was sent to the sin bin for an early tackle in the 55th and Japan's first try by Koga Nezuka ten minutes later cut the lead to 45-8.

That gave the Brave Blossoms some life and Takuya Yamasawa crossed four minutes later to reduce the deficit to 45-15. Rikiya Matsuda scored the extras but that would be all the scoring for the hosts.

Sam Underhill scored the eighth try for England in the 77th and Henry Slade added two points to complete the scoring. 

The only blemish for England was the dismissal of lock Charlie Ewels for a dangerous clear-out in the 73rd minute.

Brave Blossoms
Japan head coach Eddie Jones watches his team warm up before the match. (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

Jones Opts to Give Young Players Experience

The 64-year-old Jones, who was at the helm for Japan from 2012 through the 2015 Rugby World Cup, named four uncapped players in his starting XV.

Among them was 20-year-old university student Yoshitaka Yazaki, a star for collegiate powerhouse Waseda University.

"It was my first game and it's regrettable that we didn't perform better," Yazaki said. "The coach told me to give it my all and that's what I did. England put a lot of pressure on us but this was a good learning experience."

Under Jones, Japan produced one of the biggest rugby union international upsets when it beat South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

Seven of the 15 Brave Blossoms starters on Saturday were part of the squad for last year's World Cup where a 39-27 loss to Argentina confirmed their first-round exit.

Jones, who left England in late 2022, has said he wants to develop a "super-fast" brand of Japanese rugby that takes advantage of his players' speed.

In 2019, Jones led England to the World Cup final where it was beaten by South Africa.

Brave Blossoms
England's Marcus Smith runs away from Japan players en route to the team's second try. (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

Saturday's game was the first official test match between the two nations to be played in Japan.

The last time the two countries faced each other, England beat Japan 34-12 in the pool stages of the 2023 World Cup in Nice, France.

Japan has never beaten England in nine matches.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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