Experienced coaches vital for Japan success
By Rich Freeman
The Japanese team taking part in the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009 has all the right foundations for a successful tournament thanks to one of the most experienced coaching crews.
No mean feat given the legends of rugby – men such as Philippe Sella, John Jeffrey, Diego Albanese and Phil Orr – that are also in Japan with some of the other 15 teams taking part in the tournament.
The hosts are coached by former hooker Masahiro Kunda, who won more than 40 caps for Japan. Upon retiring as a player, Kunda became head coach of Toshiba Brave Lupus in 2001 – two years before the start of the Top League.
During his six years tenure, Kunda led the Brave Lupus to three Top League championships, three Microsoft Cup wins and three National Championship titles.
However, he was quick to point out that the style of rugby played by the Under 20s would be very different from the Toshiba approach, which was based on an almost unstoppable rolling maul.
“We need to use our speed and go low in defence,” Kunda said.“This is a great opportunity to show the Japanese public what an exciting sport rugby is. It will also be a good test for whether Japan can host a World Cup,” the 42-year-old added.
Japan's most capped player can provide inspiration
Assisting Kunda is Japan’s most capped player, Yukio Motoki, who won 79 caps for the Brave Blossoms.
The centre was still playing Top League rugby for Kobe Kobelco Steelers last season at the ripe old age of 37, though his appearances were limited by injury.
Motoki, like Kunda, said he wished there had been a similar tournament when he was in his late teens. The Kobe legend, who was part of the 1991 Rugby World Cup squad when just 20 years-old and took part in three further Rugby World Cups, said that speed and organisation were the key to Japan doing well.
“This is a great opportunity for the players to know what it takes to be an international player and what it means to play for their country,” he said.