At the time of writing, World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont has reportedly promised the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) that Japan will become a Tier One Nation, making it the first Asian country to do so. Japan has appeared in all nine editions of the Rugby World Cup so far, but ‘The Brave Blossoms’ have endured a roller-coaster ride, with several humiliating defeats at the hands of Australia and New Zealand.
However, on September 19, 2015, at the Community Stadium in Falmer, on the outskirts of Brighton, Japan enjoyed arguably its finest hour on the rugby field. Having not won a game at the Rugby World Cup since 1991, Japan lined up against two-time Rugby World Cup winners South Africa in the opening match of Pool B in the 2015 Rugby World Cup; what followed would later be
dubbed ‘The Brighton Miracle’.
Japan scored their first try to lead 10-7 after 29 minutes but, after full-back Ayumu Goromaru converted his own try to tie the scores 29-29 after 68 minutes, replacement fly-half Handré Pollard put the Springboks back in front, 32-29, with just eight minutes remaining. As the match ticked into injury time, Japan were awarded a penalty which, if successful, would have drawn the match. Captain Michael Leitch opted instead for a scrum, which led to replacement wing Karne Hesketh scoring a last-gasp winning try on the left flank to seal one of the all-time great sporting upsets.
Watch Japan vs. South Africa Rugby World Cup 2015 Highlights