Kirwan keeping tracks on young talent
By Tom Chick
Japan's national team coach and All Black legend John Kirwan believes the teams participating in the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship 2009 will have the time of their lives.
"I think it is really exciting for the players. Twenty is a great age, full of excitement and dreams for the future. For these guys it is a great opportunity. If you are selected for your Under 20 side then you are one step closer to playing for the full national side. These young men just want to succeed and this will be the time of their lives," said the 1987 World Cup winner.
Kirwan has been in charge of the Japan national side since 2007 and although he flies out to Australia with them on Thursday and then on to Fiji to participate in the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup, he will be keeping a close eye on the up and coming talent in the Under 20 squad.
"Masahiro Kunda is part of the national staff so the coaches will be relaying all the information through. Under 20 is an interesting age for us with the players here often maturing later. But I think tournaments like this are only going to help them get better, and there are already two or three I am interested in and hopefully they will be with me next year."
With Kirwan in charge at Rugby World Cup 2007, Japan ended a 13-match losing streak when they drew with Canada, and with the country now hosting a major tournament like this, he believes things will continue to improve for Japanese rugby.
"The message I would like to say is that these games will be fantastic. For Japanese rugby this is the first step to showing we can host the 2015 or 2019 RWC.
"We are working really hard to prove to the world that we can host the World Cup and I think this tournament will go a long way to showing that we can. In three week's time everyone will have had a great time and enjoyed Japan."
Kirwan plied his trade on the wing during his playing days and notched up 35 tries in 63 Tests for the All Blacks and with his loyalties potentially split for this tournament, he knows what final he is hoping to see in Tokyo on 21 June.
"Obviously I love Japan and am with the Japanese national team so I wish them all the best. I think the most important thing is we get a performance. Obviously next year it's getting cut to 12 teams so to finish inside the top 12 would be great, and being from New Zealand, I am sure these guys are here to win it. A Japan v New Zealand final would be perfect."
** Watch the opening Pool B matches live and on-demand for free on Friday 5 June. First up will be Samoa v Scotland at 17:00 local time in Tokyo, followed by England v hosts Japan at 19:00. **
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