TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's head coach Jamie Joseph could not help but chuckle when asked about his England counterpart Eddie Jones on Tuesday (Dec 15), after the two nations were drawn in the same pool for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Jones was coach of Japan for three years before Joseph took over in 2016 and went on to take the "Brave Blossoms" to the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals for the first time on home soil.
At Monday's draw in Paris, Japan were also drawn alongside Argentina as well as two yet-to-qualify nations but Joseph said it was the match-up against England that held the most intrigue.
"There is special interest with England in that there is a long association between Eddie Jones and Japanese rugby, which I am sure the players are really looking forward to," Joseph told reporters remotely from New Zealand on Tuesday.
"I hope he thinks that we are far too behind the likes of England to be worried about it at this stage," he added with a laugh.
"I know he has a few things on his own plate. He has an intimate knowledge of pretty much everything in rugby, apart from what we do. We are adapting all the time."
England, who reached the 2019 final before losing to South Africa, and Argentina are two of the more physical teams in the game but Joseph is confident Japan's brand of high-tempo rugby can cause them problems.
"We are playing two very powerful teams with predominately strong set pieces; maul, line-out, big men, very physical," he said.
"One part of me says it is going to be a huge challenge ... (but) we play the game very differently and I think that they will find parts of our rugby equally difficult."
One very real concern for Joseph is the lack of game time his players have had.
Japan have not played a match for over a year because of Covid-19 restrictions. They are scheduled to play the British and Irish Lions in June but that is the only fixture confirmed for 2021 so far.
"Whilst we are behind, we have been able to give the players a much-needed rest, I guess," said Joseph.
"We don't have anything confirmed at this stage, we are very confident that we are going to have Test matches. This is crucial for us as a team as we prepare for 2023."