RUGBY NEWS - Japan rugby coach Jamie Joseph is relishing a 2023 World Cup reunion with 'Miracle of Brighton' architect Eddie Jones, but warned Tuesday that more top-level competition was "crucial" for his team's preparations.
The 2019 quarter-finalists have been drawn in Pool D with Argentina and an England side coached by Jones, who led Japan to their titanic upset of South Africa at the 2015 tournament in England.
Jones's links with Japanese rugby go back decades and he is still director of rugby for Tokyo club Suntory Sungoliath. But Joseph is confident of outwitting the wily Australian when they meet in three years' time.
"I hope that he thinks that we're far too behind England to be worried about at this stage," Joseph told an online press conference from his home in New Zealand.
"He's got an intimate knowledge of pretty much everything in rugby apart from what we do. We're adapting all the time."
Japan stunned Ireland and Scotland and topped their group en route to a first-ever quarter-final appearance at last year's World Cup on home soil.
But the coronavirus pandemic and a Super Rugby reshuffle have left the Asian nation unable to capitalise in 2020.
The Tokyo-based Sunwolves were booted out of Super Rugby after winning just eight games over four full seasons, while the national team has not played since the World Cup because of the pandemic.
The domestic Top League has also been out of action since abandoning its season in February after six rounds, and Joseph warned Tuesday that his players must have regular exposure to top-level rugby if they are to make a mark in 2023.
"The Sunwolves weren't very successful results-wise, but in terms of preparing our players for a major campaign in 2019, it was exactly what we needed," Joseph said.
"Having a competition similar to Super Rugby is going to be crucial to our preparation.
"I don't believe Top League alone is going to be enough rugby, unless of course we have an extended Test-match season, which again is something that might be on the cards."
Japan were forced to turn down an invitation to last month's Autumn Nations Cup in Europe because Joseph and his coaching staff could not re-enter Japan to prepare the team because of coronavirus restrictions.
Japan also had to scrap home Tests against England and Wales in the summer, and away games against Ireland and Scotland in the autumn.
Japan will play the British and Irish Lions in Edinburgh on June 26, and the Japan Rugby Football Union said Tuesday it is confident of arranging three top-level Test matches before and after that fixture.