Sept 18 (Reuters) - If Japan do not reach the rugby World Cup quarter-finals next year it will not be because the players are too small or are being held back by “farmers’ mentality”, coach Eddie Jones said on Thursday.
It will be down to a failure of the ‘Japan Way’ - his philosophy of how to turn typical Japanese weaknesses into match-winning strengths.
Japan, who will host the 2019 World Cup, qualified for the 2015 edition by hammering Hong Kong 49-8 in May to win the Asian Five Nations title.
The ‘Brave Blossoms’ will play South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the United States at the 20-team tournament that will be hosted by England next year.
“The Japan Way encompasses the style of play, the philosophy, the preparation and selection of players. And rightly or wrongly we will be judged if we are successful by the results at the World Cup,” Kyodo news quoted Jones as saying.
Jones said one of the Japanese junior teams had been hammered by Wales shortly after he had taken over the national side and he had gone looking for answers.
”I asked the coaches of the team what they thought the problems were and they said: ‘The players are too small and they have a farmers’ mentality, in that they can’t show initiative by themselves.’
“The whole point about the Japan Way is not having excuses and finding ways to have a competitive edge. Japanese players are small so we have to find a style of play and a way to prepare that makes that disadvantage an advantage.”
The appointment of former Wallabies coach Jones in 2012 represented a continuation of a policy that began five years earlier when the Japanese Rugby Football Union (JRFU) appointed its first national coach from overseas in former All Black John Kirwan.
Kirwan and Jones not only provided the JFRU with some much-needed clout in the international rugby community but helped infuse Japanese rugby with a high level of technical expertise.
Japan cemented their rise as a true player on the international stage by defeating an albeit second-string Wales in 2013, going on a 10-match win streak and rising to 10th in the world rankings.
Jones said that while winning the World Cup next year was beyond Japan, they had the potential to reach the last eight and make people sit up and take notice.
“And if we do then maybe some kids in Japan who presently dream of being the next (Yu) Darvish or (Masahiro) Tanaka in baseball or (Shinji) Kagawa or (Keisuke) Honda in soccer might ask their parents to buy them some rugby boots,” he added. (Writing by Peter Rutherford in Incheon, South Korea; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)