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Asian Rugby
Kirwan: Asia will be new rugby power
ESPNscrum Staff
July 28, 2011

Japan coach John Kirwan believes Asia is on the verge of becoming a major rugby power as the continent reaps the benefits of having two of the next three World Cups in close proximity.

With New Zealand hosting the 2011 showpiece and Japan hosting the 2019 tournament these are exciting times for the rugby union community in Asia. And with Japan unexpectedly winning the 2011 Pacific Nations Cup, Kirwan is sitting on a potential hotbed of future rugby talent.

Kirwan - who won the World Cup in 1987 with New Zealand - also saw his side take the HSBC Asian Five Nations title in May for the fourth year running. The former 63-cap All Blacks winger has taken part in the HSBC ARFU Rugby Coaching Tour and has seen for himself the increasing passion for rugby throughout Asia.

"I sensed a different level of enthusiasm among the children and it feels significant," Kirwan said. "Having two of the next three World Cups in this part of the world and the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympics will help ensure more Asian kids are exposed to rugby.

"Once we start the cycle for the 2016 Olympics next year, the level of investment in the sport is going to be beyond anything the sport has seen in this region. China has included rugby sevens in its National Games because of the Olympics, so imagine how much more the sport is going to grow as that kind of investment and involvement increases over the next 10 years.

"You have to believe many other Asian nations will emerge as forces in world rugby in the next decade or so."

With a strong emphasis on teamwork, discipline and community, Kirwan believes the sport is appealing to youngsters looking to get involved in team sport.

"Rugby has been so good to me and given me a lot," Kirwan said. "At these coaching clinics, I'm hoping that on a good day we'll inspire someone to join the rugby community, because it's not about how good you are or how far you get, it's about a community helping each other.

"I always say if you need a job, join a rugby club, because there will be someone who will help you out. Hopefully we can encourage these youngsters to have hope and to follow our great game, which helps create character and certainly can help them in the future."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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