Eddie Jones Aims to Make Japan Top 4 Side, Find Rugby’s Ohtani

REUTERS/Issei Kato
Japan Sport Olympic Square, Tokyo, Japan – December 14, 2023 Newly appointed Japan head coach Eddie Jones poses with the rugby ball after the press conference

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s new rugby union coach Eddie Jones said on Wednesday he was aiming to make his side one of the best four teams in the world and unearth global sporting talent such as Japanese star baseball player Shohei Ohtani.

Jones takes over Japan for a second spell after a calamitous, short-lived stint with Australia and a seven-year run with England that took them to a World Cup final in 2019 but also ended in acrimony after a poor run.

His first game back in charge of the Brave Blossoms, currently ranked 12th, is against his old side, fifth-ranked England on June 22 in Tokyo.

“There’s no reason why we can’t jump into the top four,” Jones told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. “We need to create a new style of play that is adventurous, that suits Japanese instincts, that is attacking.”

He also spoke about attracting talented players to the team.

“It’s about how we can make young players be really ambitious in wanting to be the best player they can and create the next rugby Ohtani,” he added, referring to the dual-threat Major League Baseball player who is a national hero in Japan.

Jones defended his tenure at Australia, which resulted in just two wins in nine matches and the nation’s earliest-ever departure from a World Cup in 2023, saying he had left the team “in a better place”.

“Don’t have any regrets. Like I tried to do my best in a short period of time. And what I think I’ve left Australia is a young squad that’s capable of doing well,” he said. “Sometimes you got to leave things in a better place and maybe you take responsibility for the failure, which is okay.”