Oct 11 (Reuters) - Japan’s potential progress to the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals would not only serve as an inspiration for tier-two nations but the hosts would be seen as role models for countries looking to grow the game, United States coach Gary Gold said on Friday.
Japan are currently top of Pool A — three points ahead of Ireland and four ahead of Scotland — and they stand a chance of progressing to the knockout stages when they play the Scots in the final pool game on Sunday in Yokohama.
The Brave Blossoms have never reached the World Cup knockout stages in eight previous attempts and Gold said it would be ‘tremendous’ if the Asian side joined the heavyweights in the quarter-finals.
“For us, they are an unbelievable role model for so many reasons and I’m talking about the U.S. particularly,” Gold told reporters ahead of their final game against Tonga.
“This is the reason why I feel so very strongly that if World Rugby genuinely do want to grow the game — as they claim they want to — then USA have to be a contender for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.”
The U.S. are winless in their last nine World Cup matches and Gold said awarding the World Cup to Japan laid the foundations for the country to improve their performances on the world stage.
Current England coach Eddie Jones led Japan to three victories at the 2015 World Cup where they narrowly missed out on the knockout stages.
“They knew they were getting the Rugby World Cup,” Gold added. “It was that preparation that gave Eddie the platform to be able to work with the team for... nine months, to take them to 2015 and for them to do what they did there.
“Four years later, for them to now be quarter-final contenders is a fairy tale come true. It’s something that can be done, but it was largely off the back of them having been awarded a Rugby World Cup.
“To see that 48% of the entire nation are watching a game of rugby. It’s unbelievable what’s happening in the growth of the game in this country and how much bigger it’s going to go because of that.”
Should the Yokohama match be cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis, both Scotland and Japan will receive two points each.
Japan and Ireland would then finish in the top two in Pool A and reach the quarter-finals, providing the Irish beat the already-eliminated Samoa in their final game. (Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru Editing by Christian Radnedge)