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Jones to face familiar foes as Japan update 'historic' 2024 schedule

By Ned Lester
Eddie Jones is announced as Japan's head coach. Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

Japan’s Brave Blossoms will play a “full season” of international Tests in 2024, with four opponents visiting the land of the rising sun.

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Those opponents will be England, Italy, Georgia and New Zealand, while a Japan XV side will play a two-match series against the Maori All Blacks.

The Test against England will technically be the first Test between the two nations on Japanese soil, and will see former England coach Eddie Jones tussle with the team he coached to a silver medal at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

The contests against both Georgia and Italy have been added to the schedule and will be played in northern Japan, with Sendai and Hokkaido hosting the matchups.

The game against the All Blacks will take place at the same venue as the 2019 Rugby World Cup final.

Jones was excited to get his second tenure as Brave Blossom’s coach underway against a familiar opponent.

“To start the domestic season with Rugby World Cup semi-finalists England and to then finish against finalists New Zealand is a great honour and a massive opportunity for Japan to benchmark our level against teams we have never beaten before in our history,” he said.

“In between, the Japan XV will take on the mighty M?ori All Blacks in what should be two entertaining matches and then we bring rugby to the north of Japan against the vibrant Italians and rapidly improving Georgians, giving us a full season.”

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JRFU President, Masato Tsuchida echoed the coach’s sentiment.

“We’re honoured to welcome Georgia and Italy to Japan this summer, in addition to England, and the All Blacks and M?ori All Blacks from New Zealand, and to host these incredible matches in front of our home fans. I would like to thank the prefectural unions, local governments and regional organisations for their support and cooperation in the public bid process to bring these matches to their regions. We are blessed with wonderful host cities and stadia, and we are delighted to be able to work with local communities to prepare for these fixtures.

“We will make every effort to ensure that the Brave Blossoms, which are making a fresh start under new Head Coach Eddie Jones, will play in packed stadiums and that people from all over the country will be able to enjoy watching these matches. We look forward to your continued support and enthusiasm for the successful growth of Japanese rugby.”

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Poorfour 11 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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