Kirwan targets further improvement
May 23, 2011
Japan's Alisi Tupuailai finished as the top scorer in this year's Asian 5 Nations with nine tries in his side's four games © Getty Images
Japan coach John Kirwan immediately raised the bar for his side after they wrapped up their fourth successive Asian 5 Nations title.
The Cherry Blossoms' 90-13 victory over Sri Lanka in Colombo on Saturday set the seal on their latest triumph after an 111-0 rout of the United Arab Emirates the previous week had guaranteed them the title. But Kirwan refused to dwell on his side's dominance and quickly switched his focus to the next challenge.
"We set two main goals for the HSBS Asia 5 Nations 2011 at the beginning of this tour," said the former All Black. "First, defending the championship title and second, remembering the March 11 tragedy and sending a sort of spiritual message to the people who are suffering from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear issue in the Tohoku region. We wanted to do this by displaying our best possible performance over the past four games.
"Of course, we still have a lot of work to do to improve before the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. We need to prepare and focus on intensive defence to lift the team to the next level."
This year's World Cup will see Japan line up against hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga, and Canada in Pool A with Kirwan determined to make an impression on the sport's biggest stage.
"At the World Cup, we will do our best to win at least two games," he added. "That means that Japan will automatically qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015. That way, another Asia nation can participate in the Rugby World Cup for the first time ever in the history of Asian Rugby. This would be instrumental for the development of rugby in Asia."
Reflecting on his side's success, Japan's captain Takashi Kikutani was delighted to provide the country as a whole with a boost. "It is great to defend our title and we sincerely appreciate all the people who have supported our national team on this tour to make it happen," he said. "We were so happy to participate in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations tour considering the difficult situation in Japan.
"In our team, we have two players' whose families were affected by the March 11 disasters. Thus, at the beginning of the tour, we were determined to play hard in the four matches, not only for ourselves, but also for the people of Tohoku and Japan.
"Through the tournament this year, we have forged strong unity and solidarity in the team. This is our legacy for us to keep up the good work for the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup. At the Rugby World Cup, we would like to play well as the champion and represent the Asian rugby family with pride. We want to show our endurance and performance to our rugby friends in Asia and around the world."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games