• Kyodo

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Japan Rugby Football Union general secretary Noriyuki Sakamoto has admitted he has been in contact with Fiji coach John McKee over the national team coach’s job being vacated by Eddie Jones after the World Cup in England.

McKee earlier this week played down reports linking him with a move to Japan, saying his full focus was on the 2019 World Cup.

Sakamoto said, “There have not been any negotiations (with McKee) but I won’t say I haven’t been in contact (with him).

“There has been contact from both sides, speaking with agents and things. We have to find out whether it is a possibility or not.”

McKee’s name is on a list of 60 potential candidates for the job, around 10 of which are Japanese, according to Sakamoto. The JRFU will decide on Jones’s replacement at a board meeting in December.

“Experience will count, but it doesn’t have to include getting to the quarterfinals of the World Cup or something like that. If we made that requirement then there would be no Japanese candidates.”

“(We are looking at) qualifications and knowledge. Apart from that, someone who has a knowledge of Japan, or someone like Eddie-san or (former coach John) Kirwan-san that has worked in Japan.

“(The candidate) will have to have an understanding of Japan’s rugby culture. Finally, integrity will come into play. Then we will need someone that has a network.”

McKee’s comments came in response to media reports from Australia that suggested both he and his assistant — South African Frans Ludeke, who coached the Bulls to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2009 and 2010 — would be heading to Japan to take over both the national team and the Sunwolves, Japan’s new Super Rugby side.

The Sunwolves’ first game is slated for Feb. 27 against the Lions in Tokyo.

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