Kirwan wants Japan to to top World Cup pool

Japan coach John Kirwan set his target for the Pacific Nations Cup after describing his team as “70 percent” ready for the rugby World Cup later this year.

At the weekend Japan played solidly against the Classic All Blacks in the first half to trail 6-10 before allowing the visitors to score four tries in the second half to lose 6-36.

Japan also gave up a five-point lead to lose 26-35 in the opener of the two-game series last Wednesday.

Kirwan said that “understanding the intensity of a test match and managing those moments” were the basis of their good performance against the New Zealand veterans.

“If we can play the two halves like we played in the first 40 minutes today [Saturday], then the opposition will come up with many mistakes.

It’s important that we go into the Pacific Nations Cup and keep this intensity for 80 minutes,” he said.

“I thought the defence is quite outstanding… I think if we can defend like that in the Pacific Nations Cup, we will be able to get some good results,” said Kirwan.

“These two games have been about our team learning a new level and new intensity. You make a mistake at this level, then you will be punished.

“I felt today under pressure we maybe kicked the ball away a little bit too much, so I think if we can do those things, we will be in very good shape for the Pacific Nations Cup.”

Kirwan pointed out that the 40 minutes Japan played on Saturday put some of the greatest players in the world under pressure.

“We need to fix the line-up and our errors under pressure, so we can work on those. We need to have confidence to attack. I’m disappointed that we lost, but I’m actually very, very happy with the last two games.”

In the Pacific Nations Cup, Japan will start with an away match against Fiji in Lautaoka on May 26, then take on Tonga, the Australia ‘A’ team, Samoa and the Junior All Blacks.

Kirwan set his goals high at the World Cup, putting his priority on beating Australia and Wales in Pool B in France in September.

“We intend to win our pool, so the qualification for the World Cup 2011 will not be a problem,” Kirwan said of the International Rugby Board (IRB) plan announced this week to reduce the participating countries from 20 to 16.

SAPA-AFP

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