AFPTOKYO (AFP-Jiji) — Japan coach Jamie Joseph is backing his new-look side for this year’s Asian rugby championship, a lopsided local scrap unlikely to offer many clues in their build-up to the 2019 World Cup.
The former All Black made the right noises for sponsors by talking up the “potential” of a squad featuring 16 new faces before their opening game in South Korea on Saturday. However, the home-and-away tournament also involving Hong Kong should once again provide a platform for the Brave Blossoms to run up crushing wins against hopelessly outgunned opposition on their way to a 25th title.
Joseph, who has spent much of his first six months in charge playing down the significance of Japan’s swashbuckling 2015 World Cup run under Eddie Jones, desperately needs games against stronger opposition.
“The new players are getting an opportunity to represent their country for the first time, which is always special for a rugby player,” Joseph said Wednesday. “We want to continue the development of Japanese rugby.”
“The results so far speak for themselves. We had one win in the November tests and the Sunwolves have had one so it suggests we haven’t quite got the right players yet.”
Joseph named a 37-man squad with uncapped scrum-half Yutaka Nagare — who captained Suntory to a league and cup double last season — set to feature alongside jet-heeled winger Akihito Yamada.