Asia on the right path, says Japan's coach

Updated: 2011-10-04 07:57

By Tym Glaser (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Japan's sojourn as the flag bearer of Asia at the Rugby World Cup (RWC) may have come to a winless end, but its coach and All Black legend, John Kirwan, believes the future or the sport in the region is on the upswing - particularly in the Sevens form of the game.

The East Asian nation finished with a draw and three losses from its four Group A games at the gala event in New Zealand. It pushed France for three quarters of its opening match before wilting 47-21. It was then massacred by the host and tournament favorite 83-7, before succumbing to improving Tonga, which beat the French, 31-18.

In its final hurrah, Japan battled its way to a 23-23 tie with a game Canada team. Alas, that was not enough to see it through to the tournament's knock-out stages or gain it an automatic berth at the 2015 RWC.

Kirwan, a winger who played 63 Tests for New Zealand, said he was not disheartened by the early results during a phone conference select media who attended the recent Borneo Sevens rugby tournament in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

"Obviously we are very disappointed with our losses and it hasn't gone the way we wanted, but as far as World Cups go it has been tremendous," Kirwan, 46, said.

"We failed to achieve our goal but everyone in New Zealand was very impressed with the way we played - the Asian style - and in that regard it has been a very positive World Cup for us," he said.

"But success is not going to come without pain and hard work. I think the game against France I would rate eight out of 10 against the All Blacks, they have shown they can beat the best teams in the world by 40 points.

"But people are enjoying the way we play, the way we throw the ball around, but at the end of the day, as a coach, we didn't get the results."

Looking forward, Kirwan said Asian rugby is definitely on the rise, but its future will be more entwined with Sevens, an Olympic sport in 2016, than the 15-a- side game.

"The world is starting to understand the importance of Asian rugby and Sevens will be an important part of that. For the game to be more successful (worldwide), Asia has to be in the mix.

"But we have to lift the standard of the game (in Asia) so we can compete against the big teams consistently. We have to go to a new style of play.

"I think we (Japan) have the fastest team in the world great speed, great teamwork, but what we need is greater technique .Sevens is the pathway to get Asian teams at the forefront of the game."

Somewhat ironically, Japan won the HSBC Sevens men's tournament in Kota Kinabalu. The Philippines were runners-up while Hong Kong and China finished third and fourth respectively.

China Daily