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TJ Ioane on the influence of Jamie Joseph on himself, Japan

On Saturday night, Manu loose forward TJ Ioane will go up against Japan and the coach that gave him his first break as a professional rugby player.

The 30-year-old played for Japan coach Jamie Joseph’s Wellington Lions back in 2010, before linking up with him again in Super Rugby at the Highlanders.

Ioane said his former mentor is a hard-nosed coach, who knows what he wants.

“Probably the toughest coach I’ve had, just an old-school, tough man,” he said.

“What you see is what you get, he’ll tell you straight, you know where you stand with him.”

Like Ioane, Joseph was an abrasive loose forward in his playing days, which saw him attend two World Cups (for the All Blacks in 1995 and Japan in 1999).

Ioane said that tough attitude comes across in his coaching as well, and he has taken Joseph’s values of working hard and playing with physicality with him in his career.

The approach is still paying off for Joseph, whose Japan side have lit up the 2019 World Cup in their own backyard with sparkling play and a 19-12 win over Ireland, who were among the tournament favourites.

“We’ve all just watched them rise in the past four years,” Ioane said.

“They’re playing awesome footy, they’ve always been a fit team, so now they’re starting to bring the physicality in without sacrificing the speed or the fitness.”

He said that’s something other sides should try to emulate:

“They’ve kept what they were good at, what they had initially, and just added more to the toolbox.”

As good as Japan look, Ioane said the Manu Samoa are confident for the match in Toyota on Saturday:

“We’ll respect Japan, but we’ll also back ourselves.”

He said the tournament so far, with Japan’s upset win over Ireland as well as Uruguay’s surprise defeat of Fiji, has shown that any team can win on any day.

The Manu are hurting coming off a 34-0 loss to Scotland in their previous match, and Ioane said rightly so after a loss like that:

“I think it hurt our pride a little bit, but it doesn’t change the belief, it doesn’t change the ambition, it doesn’t change our goals, it doesn’t change our process.”

He said the hurt comes from knowing the game should have gone better for his team, who have plenty of self-belief:

“We know we’re capable of delivering.”

“It’s just the application.”

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