ALBANY, New Zealand (Reuters) - Japan coach John Kirwan said his team had "exploded" onto the World Cup by giving France an almighty scare in their opening match on Saturday before succumbing 47-21 to the twice runners-up.
The former All Black great has high standards, however, and said his team were disappointed not to have driven home their advantage when they had the French on the rack in the second half and come away with what would have been the biggest ever World Cup upset.Although both teams have been at all seven World Cups, there is a huge gulf in results between France, who have reached the semi-finals in all but one tournament, and Japan, who had just one win and a draw in their previous 20 encounters at rugby's showpiece event.
"It was important for us to play well, it was important for us to show the world that we are a very competent football team, that we can put phases together and attack, and defend for long periods of time," an upbeat Kirwan told reporters.
"We've been practising a long time for this World Cup and it was pleasing to come in under the radar and tonight was all about exploding onto the scene.
"We'll take confidence out of that (but) we will be disappointed tomorrow because there were times when we could have done a lot more."
A second try from flyhalf James Arlidge early in the second half ushered in a 20-minute period where the Japanese dominated their opponents and drew within four points at 25-21.
Kirwan said the team had discussed at half time how they could emulate Argentina in France's opening game of the 2007 World Cup and his former team Italy in the Six Nations earlier this year by upsetting the nine-times European Grand Slam champions.
"We said we needed to hang onto the ball and if we dd that and cut down the error rate, we would have a window in the game when we could win," he said.
"We've studied France intensively, we thought there would be a window in the second half where we could say in touch and put them under pressure where they might have some memories of the Six Nations and maybe Argentina in the last World Cup.
"World Cups are very different for everyone, this is a special tournament and it creates special types of pressure so it's important that you take advantage of those moments.
"To France's credit, we had them under the pump, they were making uncharacteristic errors but unfortunately we just couldn't come away with that try we needed to go ahead.
"We planned for it we just didn't quite take it away."
Kirwan said it was important that his team had lived up to their "Brave Blossoms" nickname as they knew people in the region devastated by March's earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan would be watching.
"We spoke beforehand about the tsunami and said the result wouldn't matter, because people sitting their living rooms and watching us would understand what courage is," he said.
"We needed to show that courage by continuing to play, continuing to get up and tackle.
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)