The JK factor
John Kirwan (JK) caused havoc on the rugby field in his 63 test appearances, racking up 35 tries and a win ratio in excess of 78%, he certainly knows a lot about winning.
Now as a coach he is instilling huge belief in his Japanese team. Over the past 3 years in the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup the Cherry Blossoms are indeed blossoming under JK’s reign.
Not too long ago they were easy beats and getting done by 50, this season they took the scalps of Samoa and Tonga to obtain their most successful PNC to date. Flashing back to last season JK’s team where playing the Junior All Blacks (JAB’s) and at half time were looking down the barrel at 40-nil, at the break JK walked on the pitch and looked into the eyes of his men and said “Boys I believe in you, you are better than this and go out there and play our Japanese style”.
From this moment the belief shown in them by the legend JK was turned into courage, in the second forty they scored 3 great tries and rocked the much more fancied JAB’s and ended up at a respectable 52- 21.
The look in JK’s eyes was the same in the 2010 PNC, he knows what his troops are capable of and the more they play together they more they seem to agree with him.
Rugby ultimately is about the 3 percent upstairs of the body, the good old brain. The Japanese are not as naturally blessed with body size as Pacific Island teams, however this does not always matter as they showed in Apia downing Samoa in emphatic style. Using the brain to ensure technique is applied, using the brain to know your team mates are with you and using the brain to pour out a tonne of courage is what these Japanese do well.
JK said their biggest asset is their speed over the first 10 meters, this pace and small footsteps allows them to change direction, this can be done to use pace to elude defenders and also avoid contact situations. The Japanese this season have shown they are contact fit, they also have staked a claim that at the very least they will keep a rival team honest and make sure victory will be very difficult against them.
The JK factor is huge, he has a great team feeling in his squad and his approachable manner, mixed with an elite rugby mind is rippling potential through his national squad. Japan left Samoa and the PNC on a high, they also expressed disappointment that they didn’t add Fiji to the list of their wins, this attention to detail and excellence will make them even tougher in 2011.