Coach John Kirwan warned Japan's World Cup was in danger of lurching from disappointment to outright disaster unless they recover quickly from their heartbreaking defeat to Tonga.
Kirwan said Japan had to fix fundamental problems within a matter of days before facing fearsome Canada if they want to avoid extending their 20-year World Cup winless streak until at least 2015.
Japan were targeting their last two pool matches against Tonga and Canada to register their first victory since 1991 and make good on Kirwan's long-held ambition of two wins at the World Cup.
But the Brave Blossoms showed little of the skill and tenacity which won them plaudits against France as they were muscled out 31-18 by the powerful Tongans in a nervy display on Wednesday.
"Too many errors and not protecting the ball at ruck cost us dearly. We need to fix that otherwise the same thing will happen against Canada," Kirwan warned.
"So those are the main points - we've got to hang on to the ball and be stronger over the ball at ruck."
It was an all-too-familiar performance from Japan, who extended their record World Cup win drought to 17 matches and continued their trend of conceding at least two tries in all 23 games they have played in the tournament.
Japan are the only World Cup team to have shipped more than 1 000 points and are alone among the 20 sides in New Zealand in conceding more than 100 at the current tournament, mostly due to their 83-7 loss to the All Blacks.
But Wednesday's loss was a kick in the teeth for Kirwan's ambitious outfit, who are the four-time Asian Five Nations champions and won their first Pacific Nations Cup in July.
"Before the game we felt we knew what Tonga were going to do and we felt we had all the tools to combat that. It came down to too many turnovers from ruck pressure," Kirwan said.
"So obviously we're disappointed. We targeted two games and obviously we need to now get up tomorrow and make sure we play incredibly well against the Canadians, which will be another tough game."
Flyhalf James Arlidge admitted Japan would be under pressure to perform against Canada next Tuesday after Kirwan set lofty goals of becoming a top-eight team by 2015 and reaching the World Cup Final on home soil in 2019.
"I'm sure it will put a little bit of pressure on everybody to win this next game but I think we've got the right gameplan and the right way of playing, and the guys are really positive about that," Arlidge said.
"I think the team's got the ability to. We've got a great coaching staff and the team definitely has improved. We didn't show the world how well we can play tonight, it was a very disappointing night at the office for us," he added.
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