Japan coach Eddie Jones is eager for his side to peak at next year’s World Cup after an impressive nine-game winning streak for the national team.
Victories over Canada and the USA have made for an outstanding month for the Brave Blossoms, with this weekend seeing them face Italy in Tokyo.
And Jones believes it will be a difficult task to make it ten in a row when they face the Azzurri, a side they have struggled against in the past.
“It will be our toughest game of the year,” the former Australia head coach told reporters.
“Japan’s record against Italy is not impressive so it’s a fantastic opportunity to change Japanese rugby history.”
Japan’s recent success risks becoming a double-edged sword for Jones, however, as World Cup rivals devote more time to analysing how to avoid being upset in England next year.
“Of course we really want to peak at the World Cup,” said Jones.
“We’re progressing and we’re not at a stage where we’re at our best yet. We still believe there is a lot of (room for) progress in this team.”
Japan recently brought in former Saracens and England skipper Steve Borthwick as forwards coach, with Jones explaining what he brings especially at the line-out.
“The English don’t like the Italians so that’s a head-start,” he smiled. “He’s definitely been giving that feeling to our forwards.
“Apart from that he’s just an excellent line-out coach,” added Jones, who signed Borthwick in 2008 during his spell as director of rugby at English club Saracens.
“There is nobody better in the world at analysing the opposition and he’s played against Italy’s lock (Marco) Bortolami a number of times.
“If we get our set-pieces right there will be opportunities to trouble Italy’s defence.
“We can’t underestimate how strong Italy are going to be and the scrum will be a litmus test.”
* Planet Rugby