Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Is playing a Japanese kids team in the Pacific Rugby Cup really a good idea?


The Junior Japan side playing in the Pacific Rugby Cup are currently getting thrashed. Is the JRFU organising such a young team to participate in the tournament really a wise idea?

The Junior Japan side is essentially just their U20 side. The opponents in the tournament are the "A" sides of the Pacific Islanders and Australian Super Rugby sides.

It's little surprise that a bunch of kids coming from what is by all accounts an awful standard of University rugby playing against adults who have come through a much better system are getting thrashed, Junior Japan's first two matches have been 61-6 and 81-7 losses to Force A and Reds A.

But the JRFU probably knew full well that those results would occur, the fact the entire team has come from low standard University rugby is the entire point behind idea the team. The thought process is that the top young players in Japan are stuck playing very low level rugby and need top opposition.
Junior Japan tackling Nemani
Nadolo's little brother

However it is dubious as to whether 81-7 drubbings will do the players any particular long term good for the side, especially as they now seem to be suffering a load of injuries. One of the injured includes the highly rated centre Yusuke Kajimura, who got called up to train with the senior squad just after his 18th birthday and is considered one of Japan's top prospects.

Japan are desperately looking to get promoted to the Junior World Trophy so these players can play at a higher level. But the idea of sending players out to play in the Pacific Rugby Cup to give them tough competition to prepare appears to be having more the effect of crippling them as opposed to improving them.

It is unclear who precisely in the JRFU came up with the Junior Japan idea, but with the injuries and tries conceded mounting up perhaps finding more of a middle ground of tough opposition might have been better.

One possibility that might have offered more benefits to Japan might have been more of a Japan "A" type of team playing the tournament. With a lineup more along the lines of the one that faced Gloucester or the Basque XV on the November tours, and could possibly involve a few a top youngsters instead of fielding an entire team of them which is getting heavily outgunned.

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