TOKYO, 6 Oct - There have been times over the last 16 days when you could have been forgiven for wondering if New Zealand had swapped their traditional jerseys for red and white.

At their best, there is a swagger about the All Blacks, a sense of daring about the way they break from deep, their metronomic passing playing out at a tempo few can match.

But, as one of the greatest upsets in Rugby World Cup history unfolded at Shizuoka Stadium on Saturday 28 September, here were Japan, deftly evading tackles, offloading and generally playing with a level of skill and imagination that left Ireland - world No.1 before the tournament began - utterly befuddled, bereft of ideas.

Rugby World Cup 2019 may be a mere fortnight in, but Japan already have done enough to make a mockery of their Tier 2 status. With three wins out of three, qualification for the knockout stages is no longer a distant dream.

The analysts at RugbyWorldCup.com have been crunching the numbers and, based on these figures, it is not stretching into the realm of hyperbole to suggest the Brave Blossoms may be the tournament's consummate all-rounders, with a game built on skill, a relentless work rate across the 80 minutes and iron discipline.

When it comes to activity in possession, Japan are the third highest of any team, completing an average of 173 passes per match, below only New Zealand and England.

And defensively, the control shown by the Japanese forwards and back row is illustrated by how few penalties they have conceded.

While French fans may be slightly concerned by the fact that Les Bleus are the worst at conceding penalties, especially leading up to next weekend's crunch clash with England, Japan are among the best having conceded just seven on average across their three matches. Only New Zealand have made fewer infringements, conceding an average of just five penalties per match so far.

Particularly intriguing is how well Japan rank for most of the leading attacking and defensive metrics. Not only do the Brave Blossoms rank in the top five for both carries, metres gained and defenders beaten, they are also in the top four for tackles made, fewest missed tackles, and tackle success rate. Only Ireland have a better tackle success percentage.

While it is important to remember that some teams have yet to be seriously tested so far, no other side have posted such consistently impressive attacking and defensive statistics.

Add to that the reliable right boot of fly-half Yu Tamura, the leading points scorer of the tournament so far with 40, and it is clear the Japanese will take some stopping.

It is still early days but with three wins out of three, the home nation look likely to continue revelling in the spotlight over the next week, and perhaps beyond.

RNS dc/pp/mr/sw