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13:52 19 January 2017

Rugby: Japan coach Joseph stresses need to look forward and change structures

By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Jan. 19, Kyodo

Brave Blossoms coach Jamie Joseph said Thursday that Japan needs to leave its exploits at Rugby World Cup 2015 behind and start building toward the future.

"I'm not sure any other coaches talk about things that happened two years ago," he said at a press conference at Japan Rugby Football Union headquarters.

"We need to start going forward and develop the game in Japan."

However, the 47-year-old former New Zealand and Japan international went on to say that in order for that development to happen there needed to be some big changes in the way the game is organized at the highest level.

Citing the example of Shota Horie, who goes from Top League rugby with Panasonic Wild Knights to Super Rugby with the Sunwolves to test matches for Japan year-in year-out with hardly a break to rest, Joseph said: "It's not sustainable. Players simply can't do it. The current structure of Japanese rugby is not working."

The level of the Top League was also, he said, hindering the national team, particularly during the November test matches.

"Top League games are not the perfect preparation for Tier 1 test matches," he said. "The intensity and fitness levels are not at the levels needed to play those matches."

"In the short term it is very difficult but we need to look at the structure of the competitions so it doesn't disadvantage the national team."

In the meantime Joseph plans to blood a number of young players in Super Rugby and to use a mix of experienced and young up-and-coming players in the Pacific Challenge and Asia Rugby Championship.

While the Sunwolves tour South Africa and New Zealand, Joseph will stay in Japan coaching the non-travelling members of the squad alongside younger players not contracted to the franchise.

"This will give me a better understanding of the ability of the players as the coaches will be exposed to 70 players before we pick the team for the June tests (against Romania and Ireland)."

Moving forward, Joseph said he hoped that by 2018, anyone who wanted to be considered for the Brave Blossoms would be playing for the Sunwolves.

"Obviously I am not in a position to exclude players if they are playing in other competitions. And sometimes (moving away) is good for their development. But in an ideal world we will have all the players together."

Joseph did not rule out picking players who missed out on the November test matches saying he would choose players based on "skill set, potential and form, the same criteria any coach looks at a player."

However, he did say Japan was at a crossroads of sorts.

"Do we develop the new players or hang in with the old?"

Kensuke Hatakeyama and Horie were the only forwards on the November 2016 tour who played at the last World Cup, and "they are both in their 30s," he said.

"We have to develop players that are ready for the next World Cup. They may not be ready this year but they need to be ready in two years time."

"It's time to roll up the sleeves and do some coaching in preparation for the June and November tests and ultimately the World Cup in 2019."

==Kyodo

  • Japan coach Joseph stresses need to look forward, change structures
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