Rugby: Jones on cloud nine after Japan rise to 9th in rankings

Japan's national rugby team (in red) taking on the New Zealand All Blacks in a test match in Tokyo on Nov 8. Japan have risen two places to an all-time high of ninth in the rugby world rankings after an impressive streak of 10 Test match victories, b
Japan's national rugby team (in red) taking on the New Zealand All Blacks in a test match in Tokyo on Nov 8. Japan have risen two places to an all-time high of ninth in the rugby world rankings after an impressive streak of 10 Test match victories, but coach Eddie Jones has no intention of resting on his laurels. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Japan have risen two places to an all-time high of ninth in the rugby world rankings after an impressive streak of 10 Test match victories, but coach Eddie Jones has no intention of resting on his laurels.

The "Brave Blossoms" are emerging as a true force in global rugby and the game is set to grow further in Japan as it hosts the 2019 Rugby World Cup and has been named as the preferred location of Super Rugby's 18th team.

The Japanese are currently in Europe, where they will face Romania on Saturday and Georgia on Nov 23.

"It's a great tribute to the team and players and all the credit should go to them," Jones told the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) website from Bucharest.

Japan open their 2015 World Cup campaign against South Africa on Sept 19 next year and Jones said it was important for his side to stretch themselves if they were to achieve their target of reaching the last eight in England.

"We've also realistically got to keep improving," he said. "To make the quarter-finals of the World Cup, there's a lot of hard work involved."

Japan, who lost twice to the Maori All Blacks in Tokyo this month in games that did not carry full international status, have appeared at all seven previous World Cups but their only win came over Zimbabwe at the 1991 tournament.

They have suffered numerous heavy defeats, including a record 145-17 loss to New Zealand in 1995, but have improved greatly under Jones, with wins over tier one nations Wales last year and Italy in June.

Jones said it was important to finish the year strong against 18th-ranked Romania and 15th-ranked Georgia. "We want to play well these last two games and hopefully finish the season undefeated," he added.

Japan leapfrogged Argentina and Samoa in the International Rugby Board rankings after they both suffered defeats at the weekend.

Japan's hopes of reaching the World Cup quarter-finals a year from now are not unrealistic, given that a weak Pool B will see either them, Samoa, Scotland or the United States qualify along with the world No. 2 Springboks.