FUKUROI CITY – Japan’s players vowed to continue making headlines after their stunning 19-12 win over Ireland at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.
The Pool A victory puts the host nation in pole position to qualify for the knockout stages after the Brave Blossoms wrestled their way back from an early deficit to the delight of the 47,813 partisan crowd at Shizuoka Stadium.
"Thank you for today!" Japan hooker Shota Horie said to the crowd after being named man of the match. "Thanks to your cheers, I was able to run to the last centimetre, the last millimetre.
"The tournament still continues, let’s fight calmly and let’s fight together. Thank you for today!"
Coach Jamie Joseph said he hoped the stunning victory, which matched the upset of twice world champions South Africa at the last World Cup in 2015, would make the country proud.
"When you think about what we have witnessed tonight, which is in front of nearly 50,000 people, 40,000 of which were in red jerseys, you are incredibly proud as a coach and as a rugby team," said Joseph.
"We certainly didn’t want to let down the country." Veteran forward Luke Thompson added: "I am so happy but it’s not finished yet. We will concentrate for the Samoa game from tomorrow."
Fans leaving the stadium were overjoyed by the result.
"I still feel so tense. I was so excited," said 32-year-old Taiki Shibuya. "(I think) that the ability to correct and change the mood after halftime was superb. The forwards, Horie, (Keita) Inagaki really shone."
"I still have goosebumps," added another fan Hiroki Yoshida. "It was all about being in a one-team spirit."
Many Japan fans were looking to celebrate long into the night.
"Ireland’s forwards are strong, as they showed beating Scotland, but Japan was superior," said Yoshitaka Takiyama. "Tonight we will drink many, many beers."