Kirwan blasts World Cup schedule
Japan coach believes the IRB are the blame for blow outs.
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2007 20:16 GMT

Japan's rugby union national team coach John Kirwan (C) attends a training session at the Michel Bendichou Selery stadium in Colomiers, southern France, 04 September 2007, four days ahead of Japan's opening match against Australia in Lyon as part of the Rugby Union World Cup.

Japan coach John Kirwan thinks much of the responsibility for Japan's 91-3 humiliation at the hands of Australia should be taken by the International Rugby Board.
Kirwan blasted the tight World Cup schedule claiming it forced him to select a below strength team to play Australia so he could focus on the vital match against Fiji four days later.

The former All Black winger claimed he basically sacrificed Saturday's match at Lyon, deciding to save his top team for Wednesday's Group B match in Toulouse.

When quizzed on the selection strategy, he defended the decision vehemently.

"You need to ask the IRB whether they have any regrets about giving us a draw that's unfair."

Kirwan, who has also coached Italy, said the lower ranked nations were disadvantaged by the draw which scheduled the big teams for weekend matches, ensuring them longer breaks between matches.

He said there had to be a mathematic solution to the problem, though felt cutting the numbers of teams wasn’t the way forward.

Target: Asia

The 42 year old believes the game should focus on developing the game in Asia.

"I still believe the future of the game is in Asia. That's where the game needs to grow," he said.

"Some people have said that (fewer) teams is the answer, but that is wrong.

"I think it is very important that, if we are to change the structure of the World Cup, then we don't forget that rugby is a great game played all over the world."

Australia led 23-3 at half time and changed their tactics at the break before surging away.

"Their captain (Stirling Mortlock) told me our line speed in the first half was hard for them to cope with and they changed their game in the second half and we didn't cope with that," Kirwan said.

"But if we can take the first 40 minutes and build on that ... Wednesday's game is a huge one for us."

Australian support

Australia coach John Connolly backed Kirwan's expansionist view.

Connolly said more should be done to develop professional competitions in Argentina, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and provide more international exposure for Japan and the United States.

However, the call for more to be done for South Pacific has been a common one for years, though little practical work has been done.

John Connolly thinks more should be
done to help weaker nations [GALLO/GETTY]
The gap between the top six teams and the next eight has widened dramatically since rugby went professional in the mid-1990s.

Now, the top players from Argentina and the Pacific Islands earn their living by playing for European clubs, making it difficult to get cohesion in national teams.

"Those amateur countries are at the mercy of the professional clubs in
Europe which makes it very difficult for them," he said.

Argentina showed the potential to advance from the second-tier nations with an upset 17-12 win over France in the World Cup's opening match, giving a new complexion to the competition for quarterfinal spots in Group D.

"The potential is just unlimited," Connolly said.

"That's the challenge for the IRB to move forward in those countries and create more depth."


Connolly also said the South Africa, New Zealand and Australia rugby boards needed to take some responsibility to expand on the Pacific fringes.

"That's the challenge for SANZAR, to bring countries like them into an expanded Super 14 or Tri-Nations," Connolly said.

"Where does the United States sit in all this on their west coast? I think we have to keep moving this game forward and the potential is unlimited with the media markets in America and Japan."

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