Japan rugby coach Eddie Jones slammed the country’s clubs for their lack of support for the national team on the day it was announced the World Cup-winning All Blacks would play the “Brave Blossoms” in November.
The match in Tokyo on Nov. 2 will be the third official Test between the two sides after they met in World Cup games in 1995 and 2011. The All Blacks also played two matches in Japan in 1987, but those games were not awarded Test status.
What was supposed to be a mood of celebration for rugby fans in Japan turned sour after former Wallabies coach Jones said that some companies and universities were refusing to release their players for the national set-up.
“It is vital that once the players hear this announcement that they start preparing like All Blacks,” Jones was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency. “We need every day we can to prepare to take on the best team in the world, but some of the companies and universities are not releasing their players [for next week’s national team camp].”
The coach said the attitude of the concerned clubs could hamper Japan’s preparation for the prestigious match.
“Japanese rugby doesn’t want to win. The only people that want to win is the national team,” he added.
“I hope the companies and universities are all happy, because I am not happy. The problem is their heads are hard. They are living 30 or 50 years ago. They don’t want to change,” Jones said. “When I come back here when I am 70 with my wife for a holiday there will still be the same problems.”
“The players we have are fantastic and I know they want to beat the All Blacks, but there are some who are being stopped by the companies and universities,” he added.
The game, to be played at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, will be part of New Zealand’s season-ending tour in the northern hemisphere.
Asian powerhouse Japan have appeared at every World Cup and will host the tournament in 2019.
“We are excited at the prospect of the All Blacks returning to Japan ... and we hope this Test match will provide a further boost for rugby in Japan ahead of rugby World Cup 2019,” New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said in a statement.
The All Blacks recorded a 145-17 victory over Japan in the 1995 World Cup and then beat them 83-7 in the 2011 global showcase.
The Japanese beat both the US and Canada in this year’s Pacific Nations Cup, and recorded their first win against Wales last month, beating them 23-8, though the Six Nations champions had 15 of their leading players on duty with the British and Irish Lions in Australia.
“The history of matches between the All Blacks and Japan hasn’t been in our favor, but we have changed history once by beating Wales this year and we want to change history again when we play against the All Blacks,” Jones said. “Every player who gets the chance to play against the All Blacks must be preparing to win against them.”