Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Japan recruit Leigh Jones as defence coach


Hong Kong coach Leigh Jones has been recruited by Eddie Jones to help the Japanese in the role of defence coach in the lead up to next year's World Cup in England.

The news comes ahead of the Asian 5 Nations final between the two sides this weekend, a game that Japan are expected to win handily, although Jones is said to have told his squad before the tournament began.

Jones has helped guide Hong Kong to be the second best side in Asia, has secured their spot in the Repechage World Cup qualifying rounds later this year and is seen as having done a decent job with them sitting at a high of 23 in the world rankings. His side's gritty and spoiling defensive performance in their 38-0 loss to Japan last year was praised by Eddie Jones, and may have been a factor in his appointment.

Prior to coaching Hong Kong, Jones has experience at various clubs in Wales including Abertillery, Pontypool, Ebbw Vale and worked as forwards coach at the Newport Gwent Dragons under Paul Turner, as well as working with Wales in the Graham Henry era.

Historically defence has always been a weak area for Japan and although the first choice Brave Blossoms team has come a long way defensively from such games as the Wales 2007 World Cup game, tackling still seems to be a wider issue beyond the elite players.

Eddie Jones has criticised the defence in the Top League in the past saying certain players "run around like they've got spiders on them" and the average tries per game in that tournament has been well above the big leagues around the world. Also when he has given some of his depth a chance, it has too often ended up with games like the French Barbarians ones in 2012 with Japan gifting too many soft tries.

The problem may quite as prevalent amongst the first choice team, but Leigh Jones nevertheless has a very important task ahead of him. Although Japan defended reasonably well at times last year, there were other instances such as the opening minute of the Fiji game where Sireli Bobo went cruising through some pretty weak tackles, and Japan's reserves shipped 40 against Gloucester. It will be interesting to see whether Jones can will have a positive effect the same way Dave Ellis made such a difference for Tonga's defence in recent times.

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