NICE, France : Japan need to regain the cutting edge that made them surprise World Cup quarter-finalists four years ago, after their recent pool stage hot streak of seven straight wins ended with a 34-12 defeat to England in a scrappy affair in Nice.
"The guys tried to implement the plan and we created opportunities, but we did not take them. That is test match rugby. England are an experienced side and over time they wore us down," Japan coach Jamie Joseph said.
The 2019 Japan side that memorably made the knockout stages in their home tournament combined a high-tempo approach with a clinical style that was missing on Sunday, as they badly lost momentum in the final period.
While England looked lost at times in the first half Japan were unable to capitalise, with their kicking game wayward and a litany of unforced errors including dropped balls and skewed lineout throws.
"For my team, I'm very proud of them. We created a lot of opportunities, we just made too many mistakes," Joseph said.
"England put us under a lot of pressure but there were times I thought it was a real arm-wrestle, we just needed to capitalise on those opportunities and we couldn't do it."
The defeat leaves Japan needing a result against Samoa in their next game on Sept. 28 to regain momentum in Pool D, with Argentina as well as the Pacific Islanders in the hunt for the second qualifying place as England look likely to progress.
They then face a tough encounter against Argentina on Oct. 8.
As much as they were sloppy Japan could also rue some bad luck on Sunday, after conceding a slapstick try in which the ball bounced off England prop Joe Marler's head.
"That is a first for me, we did not get any luck today, did we," Joseph said.
(Reporting By Nick Said and Lawrence White; Editing by Toby Davis)