Rugby World Cup 2015: The men behind Japan's shock success

englan japan rugby thomas_00004208
englan japan rugby thomas_00004208

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Japan's Rugby team is reaching for the knock-out round 02:50

Story highlights

  • Japan has been the surprise package of the 2015 Rugby World Cup
  • The "Brave Blossoms" shocked two-time world champion South Africa and hopes to reach the quarterfinals

(CNN)It's a country more commonly fond of baseball, soccer and sumo wrestling.

But Japan's "Brave Blossoms" have been the shock team of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, earning plaudits for intelligent attacking play and a fearless defense.
Its dramatic group stage victory over two-time Rugby World Cup winner, South Africa, has seen interest in the sport spike in what some have since wittily dubbed "the land of the rising scrum."
    "If you went (to Japan) today you would see rugby everywhere, which is not the normal case," Japan coach Eddie Jones told CNN's Alex Thomas.
    "There's usually baseball, J-League soccer, then sumo ... rugby comes in eighth or ninth" in terms of popularity. "But probably at the moment we're batting two or three which is quite an elevation," Jones added.
     Ayumu Goromaru of Japan ceelbrates scoring the second try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Japan at the Brighton Community Stadium.
    Japan had only ever won one Rugby World Cup match in 24 attempts prior to its match against South Africa, and that victory came way back in 1991 over fellow minnow Zimbabwe.
    It lost its second group stage match against Scotland last week but the mood around the camp remains positive.
    Hopes are high that it can win its remaining fixtures against Samoa and the United States and qualify for the knockout stages for the first time.
    Showing off his Japanese language skills, New Zealand-born captain Michael Leitch had a message for those following his side's progress back home: "We're going to the quarterfinals, keep supporting us."
    Watch Alex Thomas' full report on Japan's rugby heroes by playing the video at the top the page.