Japan lock Justin Ives is not afraid to admit he "completely lost the plot" after the shock win against South Africa at the Rugby World Cup â€” & he didn't even play in it.
Now the 31-year-old Ives, who was born in New Zealand, gets his chance against Scotland on Wednesday, after watching Saturday's high drama from the stands. He's been waiting long enough.
Four years, in fact. He qualified for Japan on residency in 2011, yet in his eighth test that year, the last warm-up for the Cup in New Zealand, he tore ligaments, & had to withdraw from the Cup squad because of the second serious knee injury of his career.
p>"I've been waiting longer than most people," said Ives, who has 30 test caps. "The sacrifices that so many people have made: My wife, family, & friends, the guys who were there for me four years ago when I received injured. They all encouraged me to come back, so I'm super excited."
Although not quite as excited as he was after Japan's 34-32 win against the Springboks in Bristol.
"I completely lost the plot at the end of the game. I didn't know what to do. We were just hugging & shouting, unbelievable … memories for the rest of our lives," Ives said.
"We sat in the team room & watched a replay of the game & everyone was shaking. I don't know how many times I've watched the last five minutes. Unbelievable. Hopefully, it's changed the mindset of Japanese rugby & what it's like in our country."
The win has brought the World Cup spotlight like never before onto the Brave Blossoms â€” & helped rugby, a niche sport in Japan, take attention away from football, baseball & sumo.
It's even impacted in rugby-mad New Zealand, where seven of the Japan squad were raised.
"I was just talking to Hendrik (Tui, teammate). His wife went into a Canterbury store last weekend to buy some jerseys for the kids & she couldn't find any," Ives said. "Then she went in there yesterday & half the store was full of Japan jerseys. It's satisfactory to know that Kiwis back home are getting behind us."
The team has no intention of being one-hit wonders, he said.
"We want to back it up, we don't want people to just say 'Oh, well done against South Africa,'" he said.
Unlike South Africa, the Scots know what's coming at Gloucester's compact Kingsholm Stadium on Wednesday.
"It's their first game, so there could be a little bit of rustiness, yet I'm sure they've had a bit of time to look into it," Ives said. "We have to be satisfactory against the Scotland lineout."
That's where Steve Borthwick comes in.
The 35-year-old Englishman knows the Scots well, having played 57 tests for England at lock. He has coached Japan's forwards since 2012.
"Steve works on the lineouts like no one else I've ever come across," Ives said. "We were running South Africa's lineouts for the last couple of months against each other, knowing what to look out for & what to call against them. We're not the tallest team yet we know we're probably the fastest lineout."
Ives is convinced head coach Eddie Jones will show his tactical nous once again.
"Scotland have a massive height advantage on us, so we'll just have to be smarter, & I'm pretty sure we've received one of the smartest coaches around," Ives said.
Jones, an old hand at mind games, played on Scotland some on Tuesday.
"Scotland's scoring profile shows they are very heavily a first-half team, (and) they consistently obtain outscored in the second half," he said. "If we can stick with them (in) the first 30 minutes & are in the game at halftime we will win the game. We are unquestionably fitter than they are."
Clearly pining to the Gloucester crowd, Jones added that "people in Gloucester know their rugby, so hopefully we'll obtain a lot of support from the local crowd. They normally wear red & white so they can wear red & white tomorrow to support us. We know the English don't like the Scottish so that's another bonus for us."
Source: “Associated Press”