Japan target two wins at Rugby World Cup

Japan are targeting at least two wins at the 2011 rugby World Cup after a clean sweep to retain the Asian Five Nations and qualify for the showpiece tournament next year in New Zealand.

Japan proved once again that they dominate on the continent by beating Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, the Gulf and South Korea with overwhelming scorelines to win the title for a third straight time on Saturday.

“Canada and Tonga are at the same level and if we can win these two games, then we automatically qualify for 2015, so I think realistically we go out and have a real go and play our style of rugby,” said Japan coach John Kirwan.

The All Blacks’ legend, who scored 67 tries for New Zealand, has produced what he calls “a Japanese-style game played at pace with good support and decision making”.

Kirwan helped Japan put an end to a 13-match losing streak at the 2007 World Cup with a draw against Canada. But they still only boast one win, one draw and 18 defeats from their previous six tournaments.

Japan will play powerhouses New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada in Group A in their seventh straight appearance in the World Cup.

Kirwan’s ambition is to lead Japan to the “top 10” next year, to the “best eight” in the 2015 World Cup and to win the tournament when Japan host the event in 2019, the first time in Asia.

Hong Kong coach Dai Rees said after his side’s 94-5 defeat to Japan on Saturday in Tokyo that the Japanese were far ahead of the rest in Asia.

“We came up against a superior Japanese team. They’ve improved considerably since last year. They stand alone in Asian rugby,” said Rees.

Gulf coach Bruce Birtwistle admitted the stark difference between Japan and his combined team after their 60-5 loss to Japan earlier this month.

“It was a good experience for us. It was a match that we felt the difference between the top professional team and an amateur team,” said Birtwistle.

“It was a difference of the personal physical strength, making the pace of a game, performance and the quality. I felt especially the difference against the young Japanese players’ break down.”


Kirwan said that Asia needs to have a “top league,” including Hong Kong, South Korea and China to further improve the sport in Asia.

“I can’t wait,” said Kirwan of the match against his homeland at next year’s World Cup, adding confidently: “When we will win, they will take my passport off me. But I’m sure you (Japan) will give me a Japanese one.”

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