Japan say Asian Five nations is a must win

Japan rugby sevens coach Wataru Murata said a win in the inaugural Asian Five Nations is vital for the top-ranked team in Asia as his team crashed out of the Hong Kong Sevens Saturday.

But Korea and Hong Kong are confident of doing well in the tournament being played in April and May, also involving teams from Kazakhstan and the Gulf.

Murata’s team has had a disappointing Hong Kong Sevens, losing all three group games. Korea and Hong Kong also failed to make it past the initial phase.

He said as the top team in the region in the 15-a-side game, “we have to win.” The players on show in Hong Kong are not currently involved in the national side but “some players will go to the Five Nations,” he said.

Japan are ranked 18 in the world and were the only Asian team to qualify for last year’s World Cup in France, where they failed to make it past the group stages.

The country narrowly lost the right to host the 2011 World Cup to New Zealand and now are campaigning to host the World Cup in 2015.

Korean sevens coach Park Ki-Haeng said if his 23rd-ranked side could come through their Five Nations opener against Japan, they could go all the way. “I’m confident if we can get past Japan,” he said.

“The popularity of rugby in Korea is dropping slightly but we’re hoping that through the Five Nations there will be more interest in the sport,” he added.

Park said about eight of the players involved in the Hong Kong Sevens would go to the tournament.

Hong Kong sevens coach Rod McIntosh said the territory, ranked 27 in the world, were aiming to finish first or second.

“I think the Five Nations will test our depth but we’ve got some exciting young players, as we’ve demonstrated here.” Hong Kong held Six Nations giants France to a 21-21 draw.

“There’s about four or five players who will overlap” and go to the tournament, McIntosh added.

“Japan will be hot favourites and then there’s Korea. We’re targeting a top-two finish,” he said.

Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com   

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