That is the view of England’s coaching staff, who have likened Japan’s approach to that of Pep Guardiola’s famed Barcelona team.
Japan love to keep the ball moving through intricate attacking plays, with a host of their players involved in every attacking set-up.
Those attacking patterns will pose an entirely new challenge for England, and one that boss Steve Borthwick’s men are relishing.
“Kevin Sinfield said Japan attack like Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team,” said prop Joe Marler.
“They want to move the ball around, keep it for long periods and do that to look for defensive holes or weaknesses.”
For all Japan’s plans to pass England off the park, Jamie Joseph knows his team will not be able to dominate through phase play without a powerful set-piece.
Japan are acutely aware that the last time these two teams faced off, England spoiled their scrum ball. England accounted for Japan 52-13 in November, on a day where the visitors struggled in both scrum and lineout.
“They caused us problems last time in the scrum,” said Japan’s scrum coach Shin Hasegawa. “We were penalised three times, which was costly. We have worked for a year on our scrums, so we will hopefully be able to compete.”
England’s six defeats in nine matches before the World Cup has had many opponents expecting them to arrive at matches in France in a nervy disposition, but Japan do not subscribe to that theory.
Hasegawa said: “England have been playing the same rugby for 100 years, they capitalise on their physical strength, using strong forwards in the mauls. I don’t think they have got any weaker in recent times.”
Japan do not have the all-conquering quality of the past two World Cups, but if they click into gear then England could find themselves in a genuine battle
The 2023 vintage of the Brave Blossoms is not the all-conquering quality of the past two World Cups, but if they click into gear then England could find themselves in a genuine battle. Japan have looked at England a great deal this week, and all they see is a team itching to get back to their best.
“We have this image as England as one of the tournament favourites,” said hooker Shota Horie. “They are a good team, so we will launch our attack on the scrum.
“There are so many things we have prepared for this match, but it boils down to how much we can focus on our game.
“We need to keep our composure to be able to handle all the pressure and the atmosphere in the stadium so we can go out and deliver what we have prepared, to play our rugby. That is our focus.”