Photo/IllutrationMembers of the Japanese squad at the Rugby World Cup, known as the Brave Blossoms, during a news conference on Oct. 21, the day after their loss to South Africa, in Tokyo’s Minato Ward (Jun Ueda)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

They're over it.

Following their heartbreaking 26-3 loss to South Africa the night before, Japan’s Rugby World Cup team held a news conference on the morning of Oct. 21 and reflected with pride on their journey to a historic advancement to the World Cup quarterfinals.

Fans watching the Brave Blossoms' final match at a packed Tokyo Stadium and on TV screens everywhere witnessed an all-out effort.

When it ended, flashbacks of years of hard training and personal sacrifice brought out heightened emotions among players. Some stood still and others laid their heads on the ground.

But the next day, with all the blood, sweat and tears now dry, the Brave Blossoms awoke up with a sense of pride and fulfillment and spoke of their hope for the next generation of Japanese rugby.

“Reaching the final eight was the result of the hard work we have put in continuously,” Japan’s Jamie Joseph said to a room full of reporters in Tokyo's Minato Ward.

“We were able to compete in the World Cup with pride,” the 49-year-old skipper said at the news conference, attended by all 31 players representing Japan.

“We've made so many sacrifices and won our way through to the quarterfinals. I feel the growth of Japan,” said team captain and flanker Michael Leitch.

“It's important to carry on the things what we have been doing,” said Leitch, 31, regarding the future of the national team.

“It's all about how much (the national team) can grow stronger and play better," said Shota Horie, 33, the team's gutsy hooker, who was named Man of the Match in Japan's game against Ireland.

“We need to set that as its goal and head off toward the next World Cup,” the veteran of three consecutive World Cups added.

Luke Thompson, 38, the oldest player on the team, previously announced he would retire from international matches after the World Cup.

“I want many kids to start playing rugby, which will surely lead to the advancement of rugby (in Japan),” he said.

The first-ever Rugby World Cup in Asia kicked off on Sept. 20, with the host nation beating Russia in the opening match 30-10.

Japan battled it out against two Tier-1 teams, Ireland and Scotland, and pulled off a big bonus-point victory against Samoa.

After achieving a stunning 4-0 record in Pool A, Japan advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time, only to have its hopes dashed on Oct. 20 at the hands of South Africa, a team that has won the Webb Ellis Cup twice.

Despite the crushing results of their final match, the Brave Blossoms' exceptional performance under the slogan “One Team” buoyed many in a nation ravaged by recent typhoons and left an indelible mark on the history of world rugby.