Japanese Rugby
Kirwan calls for new club competition
ESPNscrum Staff
December 12, 2010
Japan boss John Kirwan addresses the media, Japan v Australia A, Pacific Nations Cup, Level Five Stadium, Fukuoka, Japan, June 8, 2008
John Kirwan insists the 2019 World Cup must be used to stimulate rugby in Japan © Getty Images
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Japan national team coach John Kirwan has called for the creation of a Heineken Cup-style competition involving top club sides from East Asia, New Zealand and Australia ahead of the 2019 rugby World Cup in Japan.

The All Blacks legend insists the international rugby community must support the development of the game in Japan in the run-up to the 2019 World Cup, and not allow the opportunities arising from hosting the global tournament to pass them by.

"Having the World Cup in Japan should be the icing on the cake. If we think it is the cake then we are in trouble," Kirwan wrote in the Daily Yomiuri. "We need to start planning now, not just for the tournament, but the years building up to it."

Kirwan wants to see Japan's Top League, which has been running professionally for seven years, reach a more competitive level.

"The Top League will have expanded to include franchises in Hong Kong and South Korea with the winners of the league playing the top teams from Australia and New Zealand in a Heineken Cup-style competition," he said.

Kirwan took charge of the Brave Blossoms ahead of the 2007 World Cup, where Japan drew with Canada 12-12 to break a 16-year losing streak. Despite being currently 13th in the International Rugby Board's rankings, he hopes they will soon be in the world's top eight "and regularly beating the likes of Scotland, Ireland and Italy".

Kirwan is targeting at least two wins in next year's World Cup in New Zealand and automatic qualification for the 2015 tournament in England. And he insists steps must now be taken to improve the domestic game in order to maximise the opportunities that the 2019 World Cup will bring.

"We should have five major sponsors and one of the richest unions in the world, big crowds watching all levels of rugby and complete TV coverage," he said. "The problem is people think that is all going to come as a result of hosting the World Cup. And they are wrong. Simply waiting for things to happen is a recipe for disaster."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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