Matfield called to steady Eddie's line-out in Japan
Brave Blossoms in need of a lift with several higher rankers retiring
Japan coach Eddie Jones' stated ambition for the Brave Blossoms to play a “superfast” brand of rugby will receive a significant boost with the addition of retired Springbok lock Victor Matfield to his coaching team as a consultant.
While Japan, to suit their player profile and avoid being drawn into protracted close combat, have always placed a high premium on speed and the rapid shift of the point of contact, Jones believes it is an area they will need to further accentuate.
The lung-busting speed at which hosts Japan ran teams off their feet left a lasting impression at the 2019 Rugby World Cup but the Brave Blossoms, for various reasons, have since struggled to consistently generate the same gusto.
In December last year Jones, a former England and Wallabies head coach, was unveiled as Japan's new coach, replacing Jamie Joseph, who held the reins from 2016.
They won just three of their nine Tests last year but Jones has vowed to bring winds of change and the appointment of Matfield, though not on a full-time basis, is noteworthy.
Jones and Matfield became better acquainted at the 2007 World Cup when the Australian was an adviser on Jake White's coaching staff that helped plot victory in the tournament.
As line-out practitioner Matfield was almost without peer in his playing days and he has brought similar know-how and nous to the coaching arena. His ability to decode the opposition's line-out helped stand the Springboks in good stead across his record 127 Tests between 2001 and 2015.
Japan's line-out will require somewhat of a rebuild with veteran hooker Shota Horie, captain Michael Leitch and Lappies Labuschagne unlikely to be part of their squad at the next World Cup in 2027.
Jones will not want to be caught short in that department. Quick-off-the-top line-out ball will serve the Brave Blossoms well in their pursuit of a quick tempo game. Giving their line-out more buoyancy and ultimately authority will be part of Matfield's brief.
He will make two trips to Japan before their Tests in July against Georgia and Italy. Japan will also play the All Blacks at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama in late October before their clash against England at Twickenham the next month.
That should be a much-anticipated clash for Jones, who was fired by England after poor Autumn Series results at the end of 2022.
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