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'Massive opportunity missed' - Eddie Jones lambasts Sunwolves' culling from Super Rugby

Former Japan head coach Eddie Jones has blasted the decision to cut the Sunwolves from Super Rugby at the end of next season.

Jones, who now coaches England, was at the helm of the Japanese national side between 2012 and 2015, steering the Brave Blossoms to famous first-ever wins over Wales and South Africa and multiple Asian Rugby Championship titles.

His success with Japan helped pave the way for the nation to receive their first Super Rugby franchise in the form of the Sunwolves in 2016, but he has been heavily critical following the news of their axing from the competition at the end of the 2020 season.

“If Japan wants to be a top 10 country in the world, which they do, they need their players to be prepared,” Jones told Kyodo News.

“The purpose of the Sunwolves was to give opportunities for young Japanese players to prepare for test rugby.

“What Japan was missing was that opportunity for younger players to go from a good domestic Top League into a higher level of competition without being exposed to test level, and the Sunwolves provided that opportunity.

“It hasn’t worked out for them and I think it is a massive opportunity missed.”

Since Jones’ departure to England, Japan, which will host this year’s World Cup in five months’ time, have made significant strides in enhancing their status within the global rugby fraternity.

A draw against France in Paris in 2017 was an impressive result, as were the comfortable victories recorded against Italy and Tonga over the past two years.

They also pushed Jones’ England to the limit during their encounter at Twickenham last year, taking a 15-10 lead into half-time before eventually succumbing to a 35-15 defeat, but Jones credits that improvement to the Sunwolves’ involvement in Super Rugby.

“Absolutely, 100 per cent,” Jones said of the correlation between Japan’s success and the nation’s involvement with Super Rugby.

“They were physically in a different condition because they have to and they believe they can win now, which is massively different from the side I first inherited.”

The Sunwolves have struggled in Super Rugby since their admission into the competition three years ago, winning just eight of their 55 outings as they’ve struggled to balance homegrown talent with foreign recruits.

However, they have entertained with their off-the-cuff brand of rugby, but currently sit at the bottom of both the Australian conference and the overall standings with two wins and 11 points from nine matches.

They face the Highlanders on Friday at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.

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'Massive opportunity missed' - Eddie Jones lambasts Sunwolves' culling from Super Rugby