Japan want to tour Scotland annually up to their 2019 World Cup

SCOTLAND supporters may soon be getting quite used to Japanese rugby players as the men from the Orient plan to use annual trips here to help them realise an aim of joining the top eight in world rugby.

The Japanese Rugby Union contacted a clutch of European nations seeking touring help and Scotland was one of the first to return with a positive offer, hence the reason why the Japan 'A' squad pitched up in Scotland a fortnight ago and played Currie and a Scotland XV this week. Now, the JRU wish to make it an annual event.

Head coach John Kirwan remained in Japan with the full team as they completed qualifying for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and now head to Fiji for their opening match in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup in ten days' time, but Japanese rugby's overall team manager Osamu Ota was in Scotland and he explained why his country was looking to the Scots for help.

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"We are building our players now for the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups," he said. "The 2019 tournament is very big for us, particularly because we are hosts, and our aim is to be in the world's top eight in that World Cup. That will be very tough, but that is the aim.

"It is very important that we improve the skills of our young players in the next few years, the players coming through to the senior game. We have learned a lot from New Zealand and Australia with a lot of international players coming from there to play in our clubs in Japan, but we now think that our players need more exposure to European rugby.

"There are different things to learn from European rugby and many people in Japan believe we may suit a European style of rugby more than an Australia or New Zealand game maybe.

"Scotland were very good and came back to us quickly, and with a good time for a tour, and we have really enjoyed this tour. Of course, the players are disappointed not to beat Scotland, but they are young and for us this is more about their development than just winning.

"The Scotland match was very physical and we showed some very good defence, good tackling and maybe just did not play as well in attack as we could. But we will go to Spain now and look to use what we have learned to improve."

He added: "This was a good start for us. We have spoken with Graham Lowe (SRU performance director] and we will have more discussions about bringing teams here every year now. It may be under-20s teams, 'A' teams or a mix, but the focus will be on developing young players we believe have the talent to play for Japan in 2015 and 2019."

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