Jones 'perfect' for Japan hotseat
John Kirwan has strongly endorsed former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones as the man to take over from him as coach of Japan. The All Blacks legend said Jones would be the ideal person to continue the odyssey of the Brave Blossoms in the run-up to the 2019 World Cup, which will be hosted by Japan.
'Eddie Jones as Japan coach would be fantastic. We need Japan to be getting better from an Asian point of view and I believe the next coach will have to play an important part. A person like Eddie would be just perfect,' Kirwan said.
Kirwan stepped down as Japan coach soon after the team's unsuccessful run at this World Cup. The professed goal for Kirwan and Japan was to win two pool games but the closest they came was a 23-23 draw with Canada, who pulled back eight points in the final six minutes. It denied Japan their first World Cup victory since 1991, when they defeated Zimbabwe.
Following earlier losses to France, (47-21), Tonga (31-18) and New Zealand (83-7), Kirwan's position became tenuous. The former All Black winger's contract with the Japan Rugby Football Union ended with this World Cup. Last week, he announced he would not be looking for another. 'I have had a great five years with Japan, and I've been to two World Cups with them. But now it's time for me to move on,' Kirwan said.
The failure of Japan to accomplish the goal of two wins will not only be a disappointment for the fans at home, but will also be felt widely across Asia. Two wins in their pool would have given Japan an automatic berth at the 2015 World Cup and that might have opened the door for a second team from Asia. Hong Kong, who finished the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition this season as runners-up to Japan for the first time, would have fancied their chances at the next World Cup.
'It s a disappointment that we couldn't accomplish our goals, especially the last game against Canada where I thought we did enough to win the match,' Kirwan said. 'It would have been our first win in 20 years. We had goals of beating Tonga and Canada, and in that sense it was disappointing. But I believe Japan can continue to get better. I hope they will keep progressing and continue to do the hard work.'
A 63-test veteran with the All Blacks, Kirwan rated this season's victory in the Pacific Nations Cup (the first time they had won the tournament) - against Samoa, Tonga and Fiji - as the highlight of his coaching tenure with Japan. He didn't expect to continue in that role, believing that the new Japan coach would be best-placed to take over the mantle as a rugby ambassador.
Jones, who took Australia to the 2003 World Cup final against England - on the way defeating New Zealand in the semi-finals - is now involved with Japan Top 14 side Suntory Sungoliath. He has already expressed an interest in the top job in Japan.
'I would definitely be interested,' Jones told the Daily Yomiuri. 'Getting Japan into the world's top 10 is a big task, but is achievable if everyone works together.'