TOKYO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Two tries from New Zealand under-20 international Tevita Li helped a World XV to beat Japan 31-28 in Osaka on Friday.
Despite rallying from 31-7 down in the second half, Jamie Joseph’s Brave Blossoms were unable to secure victory at the re-opening of Osaka’s Hanazono Rugby Stadium, which has seen major renovation work ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The World XV team, coached by former Australia head coach Robbie Deans, included former South Africa skipper Adrian Strauss and ex-New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu as well as current All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Their quality shone through in the opening stages and a brace from Li as well as 11 points from Japan-based South African Lionel Cronje helped to give the World XV a 24-point lead after 42 minutes.
Tries from Tim Lafaele and Lomano Lemeki dragged Japan back into the game and when Suntory Sungoliath’s Ryoto Nakamura scored with six minutes remaining it seemed Japan could be on the brink of a momentous comeback.
Japan pressed for a winning try at the death but Fumiaki Tanaka knocked on and World XV held on to secure the victory which piles pressure on Joseph ahead of test matches against New Zealand and England.
The loss leaves Japan in need of an improved performance, if not necessarily an improved result, against New Zealand next weekend. (Reporting by Jack Tarrant; editing by Clare Fallon)