New Japan coach Jamie Joseph is set for a baptism by fire after it was announced his first game in charge will be against Argentina, the country he won the last of his nine Japan caps against.
The Japan Rugby Football Union confirmed the fixture Wednesday saying it would be played on Nov. 5 at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, kicking off at 2:40 p.m.
The game will be part of a busy month for Joseph and the Brave Blossoms. They’ll then travel to Europe to play Georgia on Nov. 12, Wales a week later and Fiji in Vannes, France, on Nov. 26.
Japan is currently ranked 12th in the world, while Wales is fifth, Fiji 10th and Georgia 11th.
“The fourth-place finishers at last year’s Rugby World Cup are coming to Japan and we want to welcome them with all our hearts, and along with them, we hope for an excellent game between them and Japan’s national team,” JRFU chairman Noriyuki Sakamoto said in a press release.
“Argentina joined the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship in 2012, and has grown from that. This year, Argentina’s Jaguares also began playing in Super Rugby, and Argentina is proving to be a country that Japan’s rugby community has many things to learn from.
“Argentina will be a worthy opponent in new coach Jamie Joseph’s first game, a touchstone contest for the national team. We want to take on this challenge with pride in ourselves as Japanese.”
The game with Los Pumas, currently ranked seventh in the world following their win over South Africa last weekend, was originally rumored to have been scheduled for a venue in Europe.
Sources in Buenos Aires say the Argentines are not happy about flying to Tokyo before traveling to Europe for their own three-week tour. But it is understood they are being paid a fee for their Japan excursion.
The two sides have played five times before with Los Pumas winning four, three in Argentina and one in Wales at Rugby World Cup 1999 — the game that saw Joseph wear the red and white hoops of Japan for the last time, having previously won 20 caps for the All Blacks.
Japan’s sole win came in Tokyo at Chichibunomiya in 1998, when the hosts won 44-29.
With the first half of the Top League season not finishing until the weekend of Oct. 29-30, Joseph, who will be assisted by Tony Brown, will have little time to acquaint himself with the squad.