OSAKA, 11 Oct - The giant strides made by rugby in Japan could be repeated in the United States if it were to host Rugby World Cup 2027, the nation's head coach believes.
USA play their last match in Pool C against Tonga on Sunday, and while victory would be cause for celebration, coach Gary Gold, pictured, is looking further ahead.
Pointing to the blueprint that Japan has followed, he is convinced of the benefits that hosting a Rugby World Cup can bring, especially for Tier 2 nations trying to grow the game.
"For us, (Japan) are an unbelievable role model for so many reasons and I’m talking about the USA particularly," he said.
"This is the reason why I feel so very strongly that if World Rugby genuinely do want to grow the game, as they claim they want to, then USA have to be a contender for the 2027 Rugby World Cup."
Before Rugby World Cup 2011, Japan’s highest world ranking was 15th. At that tournament in New Zealand, drawn in a pool with Canada, France, Tonga and the hosts, they failed to win a match.
Four years later in England, under the leadership of Eddie Jones and with 2019 in their sights, Japan had their famous 34-32 win against the Springboks in Brighton and won three of their pool games.
They became the first team in Rugby World Cup history to achieve three wins and not progress to the quarter-finals having lost to Scotland.
Gold, a South African who has coached in four countries, said that when World Rugby awarded the 2019 tournament to Japan "there was an entire mind-shift change around the game".
He was working in Japan at the time and said, "It was that preparation that gave (Japan coach) Eddie (Jones) the platform to be able to work with the team for the nine months that he did - to take them to 2015 and for them to do what they did there."
As Japan aim to go one step further than in 2015 and become the first Tier 2 nation to reach the knockout stages, the effects of hosting a home World Cup can be seen in their achievements on the field.
They are now ranked eighth in the world, their highest-ever position.
"Four years later, for them to now be quarter-final contenders is a fairytale come true," Gold said.
"It’s something that can be done, but it was largely off the back of them having been awarded a Rugby World Cup."
USA have lost their three matches so far but are ranked higher than Tonga. While the Eagles have missed their target of automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023, a first victory in the tournament since their 13-8 win over Russia in 2011 is now the aim.
"Both teams will be fighting for a lot of pride, both wanting to go back to our respective countries with our heads held high from a tough group," Gold said.