Japan coach John Kirwan says Asia is emerging as a major force in the world, helped by the staging of the 2011 and 2019 World Cups in its own backyard and the sport's return to the Olympics.
"I sensed a different level of enthusiasm among the children and it feels significant," said the former All Black turned coach, who took part in this year's Asian Rugby Football Union coaching tour to teach youngsters.
"Having two of the next three World Cups in this part of the world and the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympics will help ensure more Asian kids are exposed to rugby," he said in a press release from the tour's organisers.
Kirwan, a hero in New Zealand's inaugural 1987 World Cup victory, is preparing the Brave Blossoms for the 2011 World Cup starting in September in his homeland.
Japan will host the premier rugby union event in 2019, as the first Asian country to do so, after the 2015 edition in England.
"Once we start the cycle for the 2016 Olympics next year, the level of investment in the sport is going to be beyond anything the sport has seen in this region," Kirwan said, referring to the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.
"China has included rugby sevens in its National Games because of the Olympics, so imagine how much more the sport is going to grow as that kind of investment and involvement increases over the next 10 years," he continued.
"You have to believe many other Asian nations will emerge as forces in world rugby in the next decade or so."
Kirwan, who was appointed Japan coach before the 2007 World Cup in France, piloted the side to its first Pacific Nations Cup title two weeks ago after they clinched a fourth straight Asian Five Nations title in May.
Despite their regional domination Japan have just one victory in six World Cup campaigns -- a 52-8 win against Zimbabwe in 1991. Japan will face New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada in Pool A in this year's event.
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