Japan vow ‘Precision Rugby’ for Asian Five Nations title

Japan have vowed to tighten up as they seek to win the inaugural Asian Five Nations title in style this weekend when they take on a Hong Kong side who are their only remaining challengers.


After three consecutive wins, Japan only need draw against the lower-ranked team in Niigata on Sunday to wrap up the title in convincing fashion.


Even so, Japan coach and former All Black hero John Kirwan has called for more “precision” from the Brave Blossoms against Hong Kong, who have two wins under their belt going into the penultimate round of matches.


South Korea, with one win and one defeat, take on Kazakhstan, who have lost both their games, at home in Incheon in the weekend’s other match.


“Of course, we want to win the title. And we want to play precision rugby,” Kirwan declared when Japan, Asia’s top-ranked side, flew into Niigata after a high-altitude trouncing of Kazakhstan in Almaty.


That game ended 82-6 and followed an even bigger 114-6 margin of victory a weekend earlier over the Arabian Gulf.


Still, Kirwan was taking no chances, and during this week had his forwards working hard on lineouts while the backs concentrated on accurate passing.


“We shall improve our precision,” vowed Kirwan, who sees the new regional event as a springboard for the Pacific Nations Cup in June and July –and for the next World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.


But Hong Kong, who have won only four out of their 15 previous Test matches against Japan, still believe they have a chance.


“It will be a big game,” Hong Kong head coach John Walters said, according to the South China Morning Post.


“We are looking forward to it and we will go out believing we can win. We have got a big, fast and physical side.


“We are not too concerned with what they have done against other teams. If we focus on anything else you can trip yourself up. Our aim is to approach the game totally confident in ourselves and our game plan.”

 

Hong Kong will be boosted by the return from injury of captain and number 8 Semi Iafeta as well as vice captain Colin Bisley, neither of whom has featured in the Five Nations so far.

Winger/fullback Alex McQueen, 19, may also get the opportunity to win his first cap for Hong Kong, staring on the bench beside scrum-half Mark Wright.


Japan’s squad, a blend of youth and experience, include Kirwan’s fellow New Zealander and flyhalf James Arlidge, who won his first cap against South Korea a year ago only to see his World Cup hopes disappear due to injury.


Kirwan’s team crashed out of last year’s rugby World Cup in France at the group stage with three losses and a 12-all draw with Canada.


“We are shaping up fine as a team. We want to play our kind of rugby for 80 minutes,” Japan captain and number 8 Takuro Miuchi said.


The Arabian Gulf, the bottom team in the top tier of the Asian tournament, have the weekend off after running up three straight defeats.


Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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