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Rugby World Cup 2011
Kirwan to step down as Japan coach
ESPNscrum Staff
October 13, 2011
Japan's coach John Kirwan signs autographs, Auckland Airport, New Zealand, August 31, 2011
Kirwan will leave his post in December © Getty Images
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Teams: Japan

Former New Zealand international John Kirwan has confirmed he will step down as coach of Japan when his contract expires in December.

The Brave Blossoms went into the 2011 World Cup on the back of Asian 5 Nations and Pacific Nations Cup success but failed to win a single game - a record now spanning to five successive tournaments. With Japan hosting Asia's first global gathering in 2019 - pressure will be on the hosts to succeed and with this in mind, the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) is now seeking Kirwan's successor.

Kirwan paid tribute to the Brave Blossoms saying: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Japan Rugby and will always be very proud of the improvements and achievements we have made over the past five years. I will always follow the JRFU with interest and remain very grateful for the opportunity to serve Japan."

Kirwan took the Japan reins in early 2007 and has since won 31 Tests, lost 22 and drew two. Prior to the 2011 showpiece event, Kirwan outlined his wish to win two of their four pool matches with the less-fancied Canada and Tonga partnering France and New Zealand in their group. However, Japan fell short of this goal - a fact highlighted by JRFU chairman Tatsuzo Yabe.

"Although his achievements since he joined the JRFU were great, it is also true that we must face the result of the World Cup frankly and severely," Yabe said. "There still are tons of improvements we have to make... It is our paramount challenge to review our current high performance structure thoroughly immediately."

Team captain Takashi Kikutani paid tribute to Kirwan saying: "It was disappointing that we came up short in the recent Rugby World Cup. However, under the leadership of John Kirwan, the Japan national team have grown in the last four years. He was the great coach and mentor. And I believe we have been a wonderful team."

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