Japan fly-half Yu Tamura has been one of the standout players of the Rugby World Cup to date – but captain’s orders are apparently all Greek to the silky playmaker.
The 30-year-old now leads the tournament’s scoring charts with 40 points after orchestrating the host nation’s Pool A victories over Russia, Ireland and Samoa.
But it turns out orders from either regular skipper Michael Leitch or Pieter Labuschagne – who took over the captain’s duties for the stunning 19-12 upset over Ireland, and last weekend’s 38-19 win over Samoa – often go in one ear and out the other.
Tamura has been involved in lengthy confabs with both players before kicking penalties, and on Monday he revealed why.
“There’s usually a bit of communication from the team leaders, but they’re speaking in English, so I haven’t got a clue really,” he said. “I’ll basically have a go from anywhere so I just get on with it, focus on my kicking routine and don’t worry about it.”
Preparing for next weekend’s crunch game against Scotland in Yokohama – when victory would see Japan reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time – Tamura insisted it would be business as usual for the Brave Blossoms.
“I don’t care about topping the World Cup points-scoring,” he shrugged. “Matsu (Kotaro Matsushima) probably wants to get the most tries though,” Tamura added with a grin.
Matsushima added a late bonus-point try against Samoa – his fourth of the tournament – that could yet prove crucial to Jamie Joseph’s side.
But Japan are mindful of the 2015 World Cup when a defeat by Scotland, four days after their shock 34-32 win over South Africa, cost them a place in the knockout stage.
“It’s fate I guess,” said Tamura, when asked about his memories of four years ago.
“That was a tough game schedule-wise – this time Scotland will have the short turnaround, but I wouldn’t say that makes us favorites.
“There’s always big pressure on us,” he added. “But we don’t want to talk too much about Scotland. We just have to trust the process, stay humble and make sure we’re perfect.”
Tamura admitted there were a few sore bodies after a bruising battle with Samoa, but joked that Leitch was in a particularly “chipper mood” at breakfast on Monday, his 31st birthday.
Tongan-born lock Uwe Helu added that the Japan team – half of whom hail from overseas – would take their talismanic leader out for a “shabu-shabu” beef hotpot to celebrate.
“We all belong to one culture,” said Helu, explaining the team’s close-knit bond. The Japanese give everything, they respect everything. They have this fighting spirit as the samurai had – it’s a model we’d like to follow.”
William Tupou, meanwhile, said it would be a “dream come true” for Japan to progress to the quarter-finals. “If we execute our plan we can do amazing things,” said the Auckland-born utility back.
“That showed against Ireland, but we want to start from zero and take that same mindset into a big game against Scotland – the boys are believing in what we can do now.”