TOKYO, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Not satisfied with conquering the soccer world, Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has branched out into rugby and been assisting Japan coach Eddie Jones ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Jones said he sought out the “best soccer coach” following last month’s defeats to Romania and Georgia as he aims to lead Japan to a first win at a rugby World Cup since their sole success over Zimbabwe in 1991.
“The main thing we learnt this year was that we have to be tactically more flexible. We need to react to situations on the field and make adjustments to the way we play,” the Australian was quoted as saying by Kyodo News on Monday.
“The soccer approach is called tactical periodisation, in which everything is done in preparation for the game and in order to be tactically aware.”
Jones said the two sports shared many similarities and that Guardiola, who won three La Liga title and two Champions Leagues with Barcelona before leading Bayern to victory in the Bundesliga in his first season, had been a big help.
“I watched Bayern train and had a really good meeting with the head coach and I really think we can improve greatly with adjustments in the way we train. He is the best soccer coach in the world and you always want to learn from the best.
“Rugby and soccer are very similar in that you always want to move the ball into space and Bayern Munich and his previous team Barcelona played the most fantastic passing game you have ever seen. The principles are exactly the same.
“The very best soccer teams vary their depth and formation in order to make the most of the space. So when you get the chance to learn from the best it’s a fantastic opportunity.”
Japan have been drawn in Pool B of next year’s World Cup in England along with Samoa, South Africa, Scotland and United States.
Jones has overseen some positive results during his three years in charge, including a home win over Italy in June, and helped his players get experience in tougher overseas competitions.
He said up to seven of his side could feature in the Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby competition next year, which would boost their fitness, maturity and mental toughness.
He also called for greater commitment from his squad and smarter coaching from his team.
“If we achieve those two things then I think we are well placed to achieve what we set out to do, which is to make the quarter-finals of the rugby World Cup.” (Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Julian Linden)