Kirwan wants Aus & NZ to play in Asian rugby

All Black legend John Kirwan says he wants to see a competition involving top club and regional teams from East Asia, New Zealand and Australia set up ahead of the 2019 rugby World Cup in Japan.

Kirwan, the Japanese national team coach, said he wanted to see the game in Japan develop in the run-up to the tournament.

“Having the World Cup in Japan should be the icing on the cake. If we think it is the cake then we are in trouble,” Kirwan, who is Japan’s coach, wrote in a weekend rugby column in the Daily Yomiuri.

“We need to start planning now, not just for the tournament, but the years building up to it.”

One of Kirwan’s visions of a “successful 2019” sees Japan’s seven-year-old professional rugby union league, known as the Top League, reach a more competitive level.

“The Top League will have expanded to include franchises in Hong Kong and South Korea with the winners of the league playing the top teams from Australia and New Zealand in a Heineken Cup-style competition,” Kirwan said.

The Heineken Cup is an annual competition involving leading club, regional and provincial teams from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

Kirwan, who took over the Brave Blossoms before the 2007 World Cup, also repeated his wish that Japan would be in the world’s top eight “and regularly beating the likes of Scotland, Ireland and Italy.”

Japan, the first Asian nation to host a World Cup, are currently ranked 13th by the International Rugby Board.

“We should have five major sponsors and one of the richest unions in the world, big crowds watching all levels of rugby and complete TV coverage,” he said.

At the 2007 World Cup in France, Japan drew with Canada 12-12 to break a 16-year, 13-match losing streak.

The agile but physically inferior Blossoms have scored just one win against one draw and 18 losses in the past six World Cups, where they have represented Asia since the inaugural event in 1987.

Kirwan reiterated his goal of winning at least two games in next year’s World Cup in New Zealand and automatically qualifying for the 2015 tournament in England.

He also said he hoped top domestic university teams, which are hugely popular in Japan, will have the programmes and coaches to produce players able to play at Top League level.

“The problem is people think that is all going to come as a result of hosting the World Cup. And they are wrong,” he said. “Simply waiting for things to happen is a recipe for disaster.”

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