Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph stated that teams are no longer afraid of the All Blacks following Saturday’s 38-31 loss to New Zealand in Tokyo.
Japan had never defeated New Zealand in a Test match, but they trailed by only four points in the final minutes following a valiant effort in which they scored four tries.
The All Blacks have had a difficult year that has featured a home series loss to Ireland, a crushing setback in South Africa, and a first-ever home loss to Argentina.
Joseph, who was born in New Zealand and obtained 20 caps for the All Blacks in the early 1990s, stated that Japan entered the match with “complete confidence” that they might win.
“Everyone is thinking about the All Blacks, which is, in essence, part of their armor,” he said.
“Having played for the All Blacks, one of the things we used to discuss twenty-five years ago was how everyone was a little afraid of us.
“Perhaps that is no longer the case, I am uncertain.”
Japan loses ground Michael Leitch, who was also born in New Zealand, argues that the All Blacks no longer possess an aura of invincibility.
“In the past, when teams faced the All Blacks, they were mentally unbeatable, but now those flaws are beginning to appear,” he said.
“It is possible, as we demonstrated today. Who knows what would have transpired if we had had 10 minutes more.”
Japan defeated the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup and advanced to the quarterfinals at home four years later after defeating Ireland and Scotland.
Captain Atsushi Sakate was “frustrated” that the All Blacks were not added to their list of scalps.
“We entered the game with the intent to win, and we’ve been preparing accordingly all week,” he said.
“When I observed everyone’s face during the warm-up, it was clear that we all possessed a great deal of confidence. Therefore, to lose indicates that we came just short.”