Rugby World Cup 2011
Kirwan calls for Asian tour
October 22, 2011
Kirwan watches on as Japan take on New Zealand © Getty Images
Former Japan coach and All Blacks international John Kirwan has called on the Tier 1 rugby nations to help take the game worldwide arguing that they have a "sense of responsibility" to the sport.
Kirwan took charge of Japan in the 2011 showpiece tournament but despite demanding two wins prior to the tournament, the Brave Blossoms' sole World Cup win remains their 1991 triumph over Zimbabwe. The All Blacks face France on Sunday in the final of the current tournament and Kirwan believes it is former side New Zealand who can lead the charge in promoting and developing rugby worldwide - if scheduling allows.
"I believe there's a sense of responsibility on the top teams in the world to help even the playing field for the up-and-coming teams," Kirwan said. "I know it would be difficult to fit it in the schedule, but it would be amazing for the All Blacks, the biggest brand in world rugby, to spend time spreading the rugby word in Asia.
"The gulf between nations is getting smaller and our pool at Rugby World Cup 2011 has proved that. The key to improving nations such as Japan and Samoa is through competition. I would love to see the November international window expanded so that the top eight ranked teams play more regularly against the next eight ranked teams.
"I appreciate it's a hugely congested season already and that it's the big teams going head to head that delivers the much-needed revenue, but the likes of Japan need more regular competition against the big boys."
Japan will host the 2019 global gathering and Kirwan argues that the void between the have and have-nots is closing - one prime example being Tonga's famous victory over France. And ahead of the 2019 World Cup, Kirwan hopes that Japan will be joined by some of their Asian compatriots in the tournament.
"We may not have got the results we were after in terms of wins at the World Cup, but hopefully we demonstrated to our fellow Asian teams and to the rest of the world that rugby in Asia is improving," Kirwan said. "There needs to be a clear strategic plan for the future of rugby in the region - be it Sevens or 15s or both - and by the time 2015, and more likely 2019 comes along, it would be fantastic to see the likes of Hong Kong or Korea qualifying alongside Japan."
Kirwan left his post as Japan coach in the wake of the 2011 tournament and will seek pastures new but he has called upon the IRB and Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) to aid the rugby's growth in the nation.
"It was time for me to move on," Kirwan said. "I had a fantastic five years with Japan and am proud of what the guys achieved during my time with them. I now hope that the team keep improving, the union keep investing in the high-performance unit and the IRB enable them to improve through regular competition."
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