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Eddie Jones targets Rugby World Cup 2027 semi-finals

By Jon Newcombe
Eddie Jones addresses the media in Tokyo after naming his first squad since he returned to the role of Brave Blossoms head coach.

Eddie Jones has named 12 uncapped players in his first squad announcement since returning to the role of Japan head coach.

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He has taken on a rebuilding job after the Brave Blossoms fell short of making the quarter-finals of Rugby World Cup 2023 in France with a squad nearing the end of its shelf-life, and his selection reflects that.

“We need to rebuild and put foundations down so that we can make top four in 2027,” said Jones.

“There are a number of players injured, a number of players have retired, and we always felt post-2023 there was a need to rebuild the team and we have started that process today.

“From here on in, we start building towards the World Cup in 2027 and this first group of players have the first opportunity to do Japan proud.

“All those players named have the potential to play for Japan. Injuries are now a significant part of rugby so those players have to be ready to play for Japan.

“What I am looking for is players who are hungry to improve,” he added.

“To go where we want to go, we need players who are absolutely hungry every minute of the day to get better.

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“If we can find 33 players before the next World Cup who are like that we have got a good chance of achieving our dream.”

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Keen to lower the age profile in preparation for the next tournament in Australia in 2027, Jones has included two university students amongst the dozen newcomers in tight-head Tsubasa Moriyama and hooker Kenji Saito.

“Both are obviously very young for front-rowers so we will be taking those two slowly through their progression to get them Test-match ready,” Jones said.

“Both at the moment don’t have a Test match body so we need to help them develop that for them but we see potential in both of those guys.

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“Moriyama has the potential to be a very good tight-head scrummager; he is a natural ball carrier, he has good acceleration.

“Kenji Saito reminds me a little bit of a young (Shota) Horie in that he is a former No.8; he has got good footwork; he sees the game well. But to play Test match rugby at hooker you have to scrummage well and throw well and he still has parts of his game that he needs to develop. But we are trying to fast track them.”

In addition to Moriyama and Saito, fellow forwards Takato Okabe, Keijiro Tamefusa, Takayoshi Mohara, Mamoru Harada, Kai Yamamoto and Tiennan Costley are also in line to win their first caps this summer.

The uncapped backs, meanwhile, are Taiki Koyama, Shinobu Fujiwara, Viliame Tuidraki and Taiga Ozaki.

Jones will name his captain in the week leading up to the Brave Blossoms’ opening Test against England in Tokyo on June 22nd, which can be watched live and exclusive on RugbyPass TV.

Loose forward Kazuki Himeno, who captained Japan at last year’s Rugby World Cup, will miss the summer games through injury.

After England, Jones will lead a Japan XV in two games against the Maori All Blacks before the full team play home Test matches against Georgia and Italy in July.

Fresh from winning the Japan Rugby League One final with Toshiba Brave Lupus, former Brave Blossoms captain Michael Leitch, 35, has been given a chance to extend his 84-cap career.

If he stays fit and in form over the next four-year cycle, Leitch could still join a select band of players to have played in five Rugby World Cups.

As for the prospect of playing England and coming up against his old protégé Steve Borthwick, Jones is excited by the challenge of imposing his brand of “Chosoku Rugby’ (super-fast) on the opposition.

“As I have spoken about before, we feel the need to play in a different style, a Japanese style of play, and we will be implementing that from day one. Obviously it will be difficult to learn but we want to see the first signs of it against England,” he said.

“England are three years ahead of us in terms of development, Steve has had the team for three years they have got progressively got stronger under him. He has done a fantastic job.

“We know what they will bring: they will bring a strong set-piece game, a strong kicking game and they are playing a type South African defence now.

“It is going to be great challenge to play against them and we are going to have to player really well but you never know what can happen on a hot day in Tokyo.”

Jones has assembled a high-profile coaching team, co-ordinated by Neal Hatley, with two Test centurions on board as assistants in former All Black Owen Franks and former Springbok Victor Matfield.

“To play Chosoku Rugby we need a fantastic scrum and a fantastic lineout and to have Owen Franks and Victor Matfield in the coaching group coordinated by Neal Hatley gives us a great opportunity to put that together.”

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Comments

3 Comments
J
Jen 23 days ago

Japan deserves better than this.

B
Bull Shark 24 days ago

The smoke and mirrors begin.

D
David 25 days ago

Tell him he is dreaming maaate

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M
Mzilikazi 2 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 5 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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