Japan to host Wales rugby team in 2013

Asian champions Japan will play two Test matches against Wales next June at home to boost their bid to join the world's top 10 by the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Wales, last year's World Cup semi-finallists, will play the Brave Blossoms in Osaka on June 8, 2013, and in Tokyo a week later, the Japan Rugby Football Union announced on Monday.

Wales are ranked sixth in the world. Japan are 16th.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for Japan to play Wales, one of the foremost teams in the world," Japan coach Eddie Jones told media.

"Playing these games is invaluable to us if we are to achieve our goal of getting into the top 10," he said, according to Kyodo News.

Australian Jones, a former Wallabies coach who took over the Asian side in April, has vowed to lead his squad into the top ranks before the next World Cup in England, as Japan prepare to host the 2019 edition.

After winning a fifth straight Asian Five Nations crown, Japan lost all three matches in the Pacific Nations Cup in June when they also proved no match against the French Barbarians in two games.

Japan have taken part in every World Cup since the inaugural edition in 1987 but scored just one victory, against Zimbabwe in 1991.

"There is a big gap between the level of rugby played in Japan and international rugby," Jones said.

"These two Tests are so important. But two are not enough. You can't play low-level teams and improve. We need 10 games like this a year."

Wales swept a two-Test series when they last toured Japan, in 2001.

Just as in 2001, Wales will arrive in Japan without a number of first-choice players and their head coach, Kyodo said.

Warren Gatland has been named head coach of the British and Irish Lions, who will be touring Australia at the same time, and the Welsh can expect to have a number of players in the Lions squad.

Japan are scheduled to tour Europe in November for a series of games including Test matches against Romania and Georgia.

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