New boss unveils tough love approach for Japan
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: New Japan coach Jamie Joseph has pledged to expose his men to the world's top teams as the Brave Blossoms prepare to host the World Cup in just three years' time.
The All Black outlined the tough-love approach as he prepares to start his reign with four difficult Test matches in November against Argentina, Georgia, Wales and Fiji.
"We are only going to get better at playing the top-tier teams if we continue to play them," Joseph told a press conference on Monday.
The former Highlanders coach said young Japanese talent must experience world-class rugby to lift the national team to a new level - even if that means losing some games in the short run.
"We are continuing to look for top, tier-one teams to play... I think through that is how we are going to be ready for the World Cup," he said.
"If that means that we don't win a lot in the next two or three years - but we win the main ones when it counts at the World Cup - then... I'm willing to do that," Joseph said.
"Having said that, if things go according to my plan, we should have a few wins along the way, too," he added.
Joseph replaces Australia's Eddie Jones, who managed the Brave Blossoms to their best ever World Cup last year before moving to take charge of England.
Last year's World Cup, including a stunning win over South Africa, "put Japanese rugby on the world map and [Japan)]has become a team to be respected", Joseph said.
But Joseph stopped short of announcing his target for the 2019 World Cup, when Japan will become the tournament's first Asian hosts.
"There is a lot of work to be done before then," he said.
But he said Japan should sharpen skills including speed and kicking to take on top rivals, rather than trying to match them for power and individual player size.
Joseph is no stranger to Japan, where he played for eight years to 2002 after retiring from competitive rugby in his homeland. He also represented Japan in the 1999 World Cup.