Kirwan swops pasta for sushi

Former All Black wing John Kirwan has been confirmed as Japan’s new head coach.

The 41-year-old, who won 63 caps for the All Blacks, will officially begin his job on 1 January next year. However, he will act as team advisor to the national team for the upcoming World Cup 2007 qualifiers against Hong Kong and South Korea in November.

Kirwan, a World Cup winner with New Zealand in 1987, was the only candidate to meet the five requirements laid out by the JRFU and general manager Osamu Ota.

“He has a clear vision to win at least two games at the 2007 World Cup,” said Ota. “He has a long-term vision to improve the Japan national team, he has agreed to live in Japan, he understands Japanese culture and customs, and has previously coached an international team.”

Kirwan has plenty of experience of rugby in Japan, having played for NEC from 1997-99, and has been an advisor to the Green Rockets since 2002.

Upon leaving Japan in 1999 he worked as an assistant coach with the Auckland Blues before becoming head coach of Italy in 2002 and leading the Azzurri in the 2003 World Cup.

Kirwan replaces Jean-Pierre Elissalde, whose contract was terminated after he took on the job of general manager of Bayonne rugby club without consulting JRFU officials.