Jamie Joseph, who led Japan to the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, has made it clear the new domestic professional league planned for next year has to avoid club versus country conflicts to ensure the Brave Blossoms continue their rise up the World rankings.
Joseph, who recently signed a new four-year deal to stay as head coach, insisted to Kyodo News that any other schedule would be “detrimental to the national game if we are asking our players to play test matches then Top League and then test matches, and be successful at both.
“First and foremost, for us to keep improving as a team we must prioritize the welfare of our players. We need to have a competition structure that allows our players to develop, to have an opportunity to have a rest from rugby, an opportunity to rehabilitate their injuries and recondition so they can be the best athletes that they can possibly be.
The World Cup results were evidence that when we get that right the players can achieve anything. And I believe we need a Top League structure that allows our players to achieve this.”
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The Japan Rugby Football Union has announced plans for a new league that will replace the Top League from 2021 but the timing of the matches has yet to be confirmed. However, the JRFU does support a traditional September to January playing period.
Joseph does not want a return to the problems experienced from 2016-2018 when the national team and Top League sides were effectively competing for players. “It was unsustainable. We cannot go in that direction,” he added. “The current structure from December to May is the right structure. It doesn’t conflict with international rugby and allows the players to recondition and be ready for the July and November tests.
Pressure on results has just ratcheted up a notch https://t.co/Hncx0tseMB
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 29, 2020
“We need to ensure that we have a competition structure that avoids (schedule conflict) at all costs,” he said. “If we have the right structure, then the Japan team will get better. If not, it will be very difficult to win.”
Joseph will attempt to build on the World Cup success when eighth-ranked Japan faces Wales at home on June 27 and then England on July 4 and 11. In November, Japan will head to Europe for matches with Ireland and Scotland plus another two fixtures.
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