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Japanese team in Super Rugby will be a big boost

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Japan head coach Eddie Jones has said that the inclusion of a Japanese Super
Rugby team based in Tokyo will give the Asian champions a massive boost ahead
of the 2019 World Cup.

Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and from 2016 they will have one team
in Super Rugby which will expand from 15 to 18 teams.

One team from Asia (Japan) and another team from Argentina (Buenos Aires) will
join a sixth South African team as Super Rugby’s newest teams in 2016.

Japan have been regulars at the Rugby World Cup but to date they have only
won one match in the tournament.

Jones says that having a team in Super Rugby will improve Japanese Rugby by
“60 to 100 percent”.

“It’s fantastic,” the former Australia coach told AFP after Tokyo
and Buenos Aires were formally granted franchises in Super Rugby.

“It gives Japan the chance to become a leading rugby nation in the world.”

“Having a new tier of rugby come in which is essentially for the development
of Test rugby players is just ideal for Japanese rugby.”

His sentiments were echoed by Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) chairman Tatsuzo
Yabe.

“We believe that such a positive development will be a driving force for
Japan rugby to move forward on the world stage,” said Yabe.

“We will continue to make every endeavour to be successful at this level
as we look toward Super Rugby in 2016, the 2019 Rugby World Cup and beyond.”

Jones promised Japan’s “Brave Blossoms” would make dramatic progress
following the decision by Super Rugby organisers SANZAR to include a Tokyo team
from 2016.

“Definitely now you can have players going into that 2019 World Cup with
40 or 50 Super caps on top of 40 or 50 Test caps,” he said. “Then
you’ve got really experienced players and that’s key going forward.

“You’re looking at doubling the experience of players having played top-level
rugby so the difference is anywhere from 60 to 100 percent.

“We’ve got guys now coming out of university or (Japan’s) Top League and
playing Test match rugby. The jump for those guys is unbelievably big.”

“To have Super Rugby in between will mean they’ll come in much more prepared
to play Test rugby,” added Jones, whose Japanese side broke into the world’s
top 10 for the first time earlier this year and won their 11th successive Test
match against Romania last week.

“It gives Japan’s top players the opportunity to play consistent top-level
rugby, which will hone their skills far greater than playing 10 Test matches
a year and Top League. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for players to develop.”

Jones, who took over from New Zealand great John Kirwan following Japan’s meek
exit from the 2011 World Cup, said regular exposure to the punishing competition
of Super Rugby would also improve the mental toughness and decision-making of
the Japanese.

“At the moment we’ve got a group of players who have accumulated Test
caps but don’t have the base of Super Rugby — and that just adds to their playing
experience, knowledge and hardiness to play rugby at a top level consistently,”
he said.

“It is a real opportunity to change Japanese rugby.”

Jones has targeted a place in the quarter-finals at next year’s World Cup,
even though Japan have one just once at rugby’s showcase event, beating minnows
Zimbabwe in 1991.

But the 54-year-old believes Japan’s entry into an expanded Super Rugby tournament
of 18 teams, also including a franchise based in Buenos Aires, will add more
steel and help dispel the notion they have a glass jaw on the big occasion.

“I can remember coaching the Brumbies in ’98,” he said. “We
lost I think seven games by less than seven points and came 10th.

“Following year, we lost five by seven points and came fifth. Then the
following year we only lost two games by seven points, and ended up coming second.

“That’s what happens. You learn to win those close games, you learn what
you’ve got to do, know what tactics you’ve got to deploy, the mental part of
it — it all comes from the experience of playing top-level games.”

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