Japan coach Jamie Joseph says inclusion in the Rugby Championship is the ‘the ultimate’ goal for the Brave Blossoms.
Japan is set to take on the British & Irish Lions in a Test before the latter team’s tour of South Africa later this year.
But his team’s long-term prospects in world rugby are a priority for Joseph.
In a recent interview, Joseph explained it is of utmost importance that Japan be included in a World Rugby-sanctioned Test tournament, preferably the Rugby Championship which currently consists of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
‘That would be the ultimate,’ Joseph said. ‘But before we reach the ultimate it’s a wee bit like the World Cup: a lot of things have to got to start happening.
‘For us, we’re a rugby team that hasn’t played for 18 months, so the first thing that needs to happen for us really is to get back and play rugby.
‘For me to make comments around what would be great in about three years’ time just would be remiss.’
Like the Springboks, Japan have not played a Test since the 2019 World Cup and Joseph says the Covid-19 interruption had put Japan ‘on their back foot’.
And the Brave Blossoms’ hopes of entering an international competition also took another hit when World Rugby’s new ‘Strategic Plan 2021-2025’ – released on Wednesday night – confirmed that any meaningful changes to the global Test calendar and competitions won’t happen until 2024, at the earliest.
‘I think what we need to do internationally, is that we need to sort out the window that suits international rugby,’ said Joseph.
‘There’s a conflict there between southern and northern hemisphere. Japan, even though we are based in the northern hemisphere, our rugby is played more along the lines of the southern hemisphere.
‘We need to get that sorted and then from that you can work out your competitions.
‘The biggest challenge for me as the international coach for Japan, is getting a season where our players can play domestic rugby that will support our companies, the Top League, our stakeholders and our sponsors, and then give the players an opportunity to have a breather away from the game, and have a pre-season and then get into some Test matches, and we’re not quite there yet in that respect.’
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