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The Japan Rugby Football Union has approached former Italy coach and All Blacks legend John Kirwan for the national team job, Japan general manager Osamu Ota said Monday.

“We have contacted him and I think we can make it official by the end of the year,” Ota said.

Kirwan, 41, has been on top of the shortlist since the JRFU dismissed Jean-Pierre Elissalde last month after finding out that the Frenchman took over as general manager of French side Bayonne without consulting officials of the Japanese federation.

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