Japan aiming for second Asian World cup spot

Japan set their sights on winning a second World Cup berth for Asia after they strolled to their fourth successive Asian Five Nations title, maintaining their unbeaten record in the process.

Coach John Kirwan said Japan hoped to secure automatic qualification for the 2015 World Cup by winning two games at this year’s tournament in New Zealand, leaving Asia’s spot open to a new contender.

“At the World Cup, we will do our best to win at least two games. That means that Japan will automatically qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015,” said the All Blacks legend.

“That way, another Asia nation can participate in the Rugby World Cup for the first time ever in the history of Asian Rugby. This would be instrumental for the development of rugby in Asia.”

Despite their regional domination the Brave Blossoms 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 at this year’s edition.

And Kirwan warned Japan would have to reach the “next level” even after racking up some 307 points — against just 35 conceded — in big Asian Five Nations wins against Hong Kong, UAE, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka.

“Of course, we still have a lot of work to do to improve before the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. We need to prepare and focus on intensive defence to lift the team to the next level,” he said.

Meanwhile Hong Kong celebrated their first runners-up spot in the Asian Five Nations — and said reaching the 2015 World Cup was their “next goal”.

“There is no point talking about the differences between Japan and Hong Kong,” coach Dai Rees told the South China Morning Post.

“Japan has a professional league and is a full-time outfit and miles ahead of anyone else in Asia.

“It isn’t about that. It’s about Hong Kong retaining strength in depth; it’s about Hong Kong building on this success, bringing more talent through and ensuring that we stay in the top two in Asia.”

UAE finished third and Kazakhstan were fourth, while debutants Sri Lanka prop up the table after three defeats and a draw.

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