Japan slam Kirwan for too many foreign players

Outgoing Japan coach and former All Black John Kirwan has come under fire for his use of foreign born players in the Brave Blossoms’ disappointing Rugby World Cup campaign.


Kirwan has announced that he will not re-apply for his position and will move on after his contract expires but was criticized at a board meeting of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) which reviewed the World Cup in New Zealand according to Japan union chairman Tatsuzo Yabe.


Japan finished bottom of Pool A with three defeats – by eventual World Cup winners New Zealand, runners-up France and Tonga – and a draw with Canada.


“We talked about how our scrum went or how our breakdown went. We also talked about our mental side,” Yabe said.


“Some argued that we had too many foreigners. There were various topics.”


Kirwan picked a record 10 foreign-born players, half of whom have obtained Japanese nationality, for his World Cup squad. The previous highest was seven, also selected by Kirwan for the 2007 World Cup in France.


He used seven of them in the starting line-up against Canada in an effort to break Japan’s World Cup winless streak, which dates back to their 52-8 victory over Zimbabwe 20 years ago. In 2007, Japan also drew with Canada.


Kirwan has insisted Japan must use foreigners to improve their results toward 2019 when they host the World Cup.


“Rugby is a world sport, we accept everyone. It’s not political,” he said before the New Zealand tournament.


Earlier this month, the 46-year-old said he would not seek a new contract with Japan when his current five-year deal expires in December.


Former Australia coach Eddie Jones, who led the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final, which they lost to England, has been mentioned by some JRFU executives as a candidate to replace Kirwan, according to media reports.


Jones now coaches Japan Top-14 side Suntory Sungoliath.


Yabe said no specific name was named at the board meeting as Kirwan’s successor but they had set up a committee to choose the new coach and staff, hopefully by the end of this year.


“We noted the good things JK (Kirwan) has done. But the results are what matter,” he said. “JK said he would keep watching Japanese rugby beyond December. We will appreciate that.”

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