Japan to run opposition teams off their feet

Eddie Jones wants to go out with a bang

Outgoing Japan coach Eddie Jones has insisted that his team can pull off one
of biggest upsets in the Rugby World Cup and reach the quarter finals.

Japan have been pooled with South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and the USA so to
reach the quarter finals they will need to win at least four matches.

Jones has no shortage of experience at World Cups having won a runners up medal
in 2003 as Australia coach and a winners medal from 2007 when he was an assistant
coach with South Africa.

The Australian has announced that he will step down down after the tournament
but says that in the meantime for the World Cup he has turned his players into
gym rats to address their physical disadvantage.

Japan’s glass jaw has been exposed time and again at previous World Cups but
55-year-old Jones insists Asia’s top side can spring an upset and reach the
quarter-finals in England.

“I’ve been lucky enough to go to the World Cup before with Australia and
your only intention is to win the World Cup,” he told AFP in a recent interview.

“The team feels the pressure a little, which I don’t think is such a bad
thing,” added Jones, who recently announced his decision not to sign a
new contract with Japan.

“Whilst they might struggle with it now, once they get to the World Cup
we can use it to our advantage.”

The Japanese begin their punishing daily training at 5:00 am in a bid to get
a jump on their rivals and Jones employs scientific training methods to wring
every last drop of energy from his players as he plots his giant-killing masterplan.

A shrewd operator, Jones, whose mother is Japanese, has instilled a sense of
self-belief in Japan, underlined by a run of 10 successive wins last year that
saw them break into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

Jones, whose first move after replacing former All Black John Kirwan in 2012
was to reduce the number of foreign players and get Japan playing more to their
strengths, will need all his wiliness if his side is to negotiate a Pool B also
involving South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the United States.

Head coach of Australia between 2001 and 2005, Jones suffered a stroke in 2013
but made a full recovery and has overseen drastic improvement in the team’s
fortunes since.

He has been instrumental working behind the scenes on Japan’s successful bid
to enter a team in the 2016 Super Rugby competition, insisting Asia’s top rugby
nation would be “climbing a mountain” without it as they look to strengthen
the game before hosting the 2019 World Cup.

Never one to bite his tongue, however, Jones pulls no punches about the obstacles
that remain for Japan with the country’s youth set-up still in disarray, blaming
parochial short-sightedness for a string of disastrous results at under-20 level.

Jones led the senior side to a tournament record 121-0 win over the Philippines
in the Asian Five Nations in 2013 but has a tough job to break down the perception
of the Japanese as a soft touch among world rugby’s top echelons.

The memory of their record 145-17 World Cup defeat by New Zealand in 1995 stalks
Japan at every World Cup.

Their latest challenge will prove a test of faith for Jones, who has zero tolerance
for anyone not on board with his philosophies and sees only the opportunity
to leave a lasting impact in his Japan swansong.

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