Japan Routs ‘Team Hope’ in World Championship Tune-up

Just what Japan coach Kiyoyuki Mori will have learned from his side’s 58-0 drubbing of “Team Hope” at Fujitsu Stadium in Kawasaki, Japan on Sunday is anyone’s guess.

Although billed as a final selection decider before the 50-year-old coach whittles down his squad before next month’s World Championship, the low-key affair was little more than a practice session. With QBs in bibs not allowed to run or be hit Mori can’t have seen anything that would help decide how many signal callers he should take to Canton.

The tone was set on the very first series with Team Hope (a collection of X-League and Keio University players) going three and out with a dropped ball and two overthrown passes.

Japan Head Coach / Photo: John Gunning

Japan Head Coach Kiyoyuki Mori / Photo: John Gunning

Japan got on the scoreboard straight away with wideout Yuta Hayashi taking a short pass in for a TD on their first series.

Team Hope managed to string good plays together at several stages but five interceptions (including two pick sixes) doomed whatever chances they had.

The half full stadium was almost entirely on the national team’s side and at times it seemed like the game was little more than a confidence booster ahead of the World Championship.

24-0 up at half time, Japan added another 34 points without reply after the break, as their opponents tired.

With holes looking like they were opened by Moses starting to appear, Japan was able to score from distance on the ground as well as through the air.

A blocked extra point was probably as good as it got for the “away” team but with nothing to play for, a padded run out and no injuries meant, all things considered, it was a successful afternoon.

Japan -v- Team Hope 8

After the game Mori chose to ignore the score and focus on what his team needs to improve, saying the receiver’s missed blocking assignments and wrong routes will be much more costly against the USA’s (Japan’s likely first opponent) secondary.

The coach wasn’t too downbeat about the errors though, attributing them to the fact that several players aren’t regulars in the national side and as a result miscommunications occurred when signals were being conveyed.

Later today the final roster of 45 will be named and next month Japan heads to Canton hoping to reclaim the title it last won in 2003.

John Gunning is a Tokyo based sports writer. He is a sumo commentator for NHK and covers MMA and American football for national and international publications.