He may speak in a broad Aussie accent and bear a surname of Celtic origin but lock James Moore is savouring every moment of his part in Japan’s Rugby World Cup fairytale.
The 26-year-old Brisbane-born forward qualified for Japan on the three-year residency rule in June and won his sixth cap for the Brave Blossoms in Saturday’s 38-19 bonus-point win over Samoa in Toyota, which saw the hosts go top of Pool A and set up a potential humdinger against Scotland in Yokohama next Sunday.
He is one of a number of foreign legionnaires who have provided a spine to the Japanese side, along with Kiwis like skipper Michael Leitch, veteran lock Luke Thompson, and the South African second/back-row duo of Wimpie van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagné. And then, of course, there is Samoan-born centre Timothy Lafaele, who scored against the land of his birth at the weekend.
Of course, Scotland are in no position to raise any eyebrows on this issue with lock Ben Toolis and centre Sam Johnson speaking in the exact same Queensland drawl as Moore along with the smattering of Kiwi, English and South African accents.
Moore said Japan’s confidence is growing with every game but expects the shoot-out with the Scots to be a fierce contest.
“Scotland didn’t have a great start but after that they played some really good rugby,” he said. “They’re a very good side so it’s going to be a tough battle next week.
“Our gameplan changes a fair bit depending on what team we’re up against. We have the ability to adapt and we don’t just have one style of rugby. We’ll be able to adapt to Scotland.”
As Gregor Townsend’s side face Russia in Shizuoka on Wednesday, desperate for a bonus-point win that would take them within four points of the current pool toppers, the hosts have over a week to rest and steel themselves for the biggest match in the nation’s rugby history in front of a crowd of 70,000 in Yokohama.
“It’s unbelievable. Japanese rugby fans are definitely the best in the world,” added Moore. “When you’re out on the field you try to block it out and just focus on playing rugby, but sometimes it’s hard with how loud it is.”
Japan’s bonus-point win was controversial in Scottish eyes for the way the Pacific islanders opted for a scrum on their own line after being awarded a free kick which could have ended the match with the Brave Blossoms stranded on three tries. But Samoa coach Steve Jackson wasn’t happy with a late tackle by Moore during the game, in which only a penalty was awarded.
Moore expects the rising rugby hysteria in Japan to only intensify over the coming days.
“It’s a little bit weird,” he said. “We usually go out for a coffee on game day, but we couldn’t leave the hotel on Saturday because there was about 1,000 people outside. It’s a bit like being held hostage, but it’s something we can deal with.
“There is a lot of pressure. We’ve been saying we’re going to try and make the quarter-finals and that has always been our goal. So there is pressure to fulfil that goal and there is obviously more pressure with this being a home World Cup.
“Beating Ireland just gave us more belief. Everybody realised, hey, we can really do this.”
Moore, who plays for the Japan team Sunwolves in Super Rugby, recounted how he ended up in the Far East.
“I played club rugby in Brisbane and had one season of the NRC [National Rugby Championship]. After that I looked to go somewhere else because I wasn’t getting any opportunities at the higher level in Australia,” he explained. “A Japanese club picked me up and I just went from there. I’ve loved it over here.”
All the ex-pats in the Japan team were taught to sing the national anthem over the summer but Moore confesses that learning the language still needs a bit of work.
“I’m alright. I still wouldn’t be confident enough to do an interview in Japanese,” he said.
“I used to do classes but this has been a really busy year so I’ve kind of put it on hold. But when I go back to my club I’ll get back into it again.
“It’s difficult. There are different versions of the language – one is really polite, business language, but then the boys speak quite casually. It’s almost like having to learn two different things. It’s completely different to English.”
• Our Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup coverage is brought to you in association with Castle Water www.castlewater.co.uk