Japan need regular competition to win Rugby World Cup, says chief

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japan need to join a regular international competition if they are to achieve their ambitious goal of winning the Rugby World Cup, the country's union chief said Friday.

The 2019 World Cup hosts have set the target of staging the tournament again before 2050 -- and winning it -- after reaching their first quarter-finals on home soil two years ago.

But Japan Rugby Football Union chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi believes the Brave Blossoms will have no chance unless they join a tournament like the Rugby Championship or Six Nations.

He said Japan is trying to hammer out a deal with other unions, and wants to "work things out quickly and cooperate, so that I can deliver some good news".

"I think playing in regular international competitions is essential," Iwabuchi said, as the JRFU laid out its plans for the next three years.

"With the situation society is in, it's difficult to arrange fixtures for the regular July and November international dates, but we're in contact with lots of different countries and unions and we have built good relationships with World Rugby."

Japan has not played at all since losing to South Africa in the World Cup quarter-finals in October 2019, but will play an as-yet unnamed opponent at home in June.

They will then travel to Edinburgh to take on the British and Irish Lions at Murrayfield later that month.

Iwabuchi said he wants Japan to become a rugby giant off the field as well as on it, describing the scale of English rugby's finances as "a big target".

"Japan got to the World Cup quarterfinals, but in order to work towards getting to the semis and then winning the title, the JRFU first has to create an environment that drives that forward," he said.

"Of course, becoming the best team in the world requires money. You also have to think about the players' welfare, and make sure they have a safe environment to play in."