Eddie Jones : Japan must improve before PNC

Japan head coach Eddie Jones says they will have to strengthen their scrum and boost their fitness before the Asian champions defend the Pacific Nations Cup next month.

“We need to get far better in the scrum,” the former Wallaby coach said after Japan whitewashed Hong Kong 67-0 in Tokyo on Saturday to secure a fifth straight Asian Five Nations title.

“We don’t have the leg strength to scrimmage low. We need to develop a low effective scrum,” said Jones, who assumed his post last month with a goal of leading Japan into the world’s top 10 by the 2015 World Cup in England.

By taking their final match of the round robin, the Brave Blossoms remained unbeaten with 20 straight wins in the five-year history of the Asian Five Nations.

South Korea, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan will play their final matches next Saturday.

Against more physical Tonga, Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup, Jones said his players were still not strong or fit enough.

But he said they had improved in the six weeks they have been together.

“They have put on muscle and got quicker and with the type of rugby we are playing they are going to get better,” said the 52-year-old, who coached his home country Australia to the 2003 World Cup final.

Japan will host the first five of six matches in the Pacific Nations, starting on June 5 in Nagoya, to boost their preparations to stage the 2019 World Cup. The final match will be played in Fiji on June 23.

The tournament was inaugurated in 2006 and Japan won it for the first time last year under the tutelage of All Blacks legend John Kirwan.

Jones, who helped Suntory Sungoliath to Japan’s top league and national championship double in the 2011-2012 season, praised his squad which included many inexperienced players and just one foreigner: flanker Michael Leitch of New Zealand.

“I can’t fault the players’ attitude at all,” he said. “They are learning really quickly and working very hard.”

“If we are to be one of the top 10 teams in the world then we have to be the hardest working team in the world.”


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