Ti­a­tia pledges to im­prove Ja­pan through Sun­wolves

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Filo Ti­a­tia, the new head coach of Ja­pan’s Su­per Rugby fran­chise the Sun­wolves, promised yes­ter­day to shake up the team’s per­for­mance fol­low­ing a dis­ap­point­ing maiden sea­son, and as Ja­pan rugby eyes a boost ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

But the for­mer All Black, ap­pointed last month on a two-year deal, asked fans for their pa­tience as the in­ex­pe­ri­enced team face a daut­ing start to the new sea­son with a show­down against the 2016 cham­pion Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes in Fe­bru­ary.

“We are try­ing to im­prove a lot of ar­eas,” the Kiwi said in his first press con­fer­ence as head coach, joined by the also re­centlyap­pointed boss of Ja­pan’s na­tional team, Jamie Joseph.

“This (new sea­son) is go­ing to be our sec­ond year. So we have got a lot of learn­ing to do. But we are go­ing to con­tinue to keep im­prov­ing as well,”Ti­a­tia said.

The Sun­wolves joined an ex­panded 18team Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion this year fol­low­ing Ja­pan’s as­ton­ish­ing per­for­mance at last year’s World Cup where the Brave Blos­soms won three pool games, in­clud­ing a 34-32 shock up­set over two-time champions South Africa.

But de­lays bring­ing in play­ers and coach­ing staff sab­o­taged the team’s prepa­ra­tions and as ex­pected, they have strug­gled in the south­ern hemi­sphere’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion, slump­ing to a record of one win, one draw and 13 de­feats.

They hit rock bot­tom in a 92-17 hu­mil­i­a­tion by South Africa’s Chee­tahs in April, prompt­ing crit­i­cism from for­mer Ja­pan na­tional coach Ed­die Jones, now in charge of Eng­land, who slammed the Sun­wolves’ lack of depth as “em­bar­rass­ing”. Joseph, an­other for­mer All Black who be­gan his Ja­panese as­sign­ment this year, em­pha­sised “align­ment” be­tween the Brave Blos­soms and the Sun­wolves as a means to bol­ster the per­for­mance of Ja­panese play­ers ahead of the loom­ing World Cup to be hosted by Ja­pan.

“(I will) help out any­way I can” to make the Sun­wolves more com­pet­i­tive in the global arena and to please fans, Joseph said. Ti­a­tia made clear that the speed and phys­i­cal strength of play­ers would be in fo­cus as the team looks to im­prove on what they achieved last sea­son. “We are try­ing to find play­ers that can rep­re­sent the coun­try first and fore­most,” he said.

Ja­panese rugby chiefs have made no se­cret of their de­sire for the coun­try’s top play­ers to turn out for the Sun­wolves.

But de­spite bumper crowds sup­port­ing the team, sev­eral mar­quee Ja­pan play­ers snubbed the Sun­wolves to sign for other clubs on more lu­cra­tive con­tracts, in­clud­ing Ja­pan cap­tain Michael Leitch and full-back Ayumu Goro­maru. — AFP

SWANSEA: File photo shows Filo Ti­a­tia (right) of Ospreys is tack­led by Matthew Jones dur­ing the EDF En­ergy Cup match be­tween Ospreys and Worces­ter War­riors at the Lib­erty Sta­dium on Oc­to­ber 26, 2008 in Swansea, Wales.

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