Japan continue to lead the way in Asia
Japan ended their HSBC Asian 5 Nations campaign with an emphatic 93-3 defeat of the United Arab Emirates to signal their intentions to once again claim the Asia 1 spot at Rugby World Cup 2015 when it is decided next year.
The Brave Blossoms have now won 24 consecutive matches in the Top 5, all of them with a bonus point, and this season scored an impressive 316 points and conceded just eight in beating the Philippines (121-0), Hong Kong (38-0), Korea (64-5) and the UAE.
Japan scored 15 tries at 7he Sevens – four of them by wing Yuta Imamura and three by captain Takashi Kikutani – but came up just short of reaching the century of points for the second year in a row against the UAE.
“I am very happy,” said coach Eddie Jones, who had made wholesale changes to “We have improved since last year in terms of our physicality and the players have a better understanding of how we want them to play.
“But there is a long way to go. There is a quantum leap between this and the likes of Tonga and Wales, but we can only do what we can do, so we’ll keep heading in that direction.”
Kikutani’s hat-trick takes him to third on Japan’s all-time list of try-scorers, while another player on the scoresheet was teenager Yoshikazu Fujita, who had announced his arrival on the Test stage with a six-try haul in this fixture last year.
Japan’s victory had no impact on their position of 15th in the IRB World Rankings with the UAE ranked 81 places below their visitors. The weekend’s other Top 5 match saw Korea run out 62-19 over the Philippines, which also had no impact with 31 places between the two sides.
Wings Gwong Min Kim and Jung Min Lee both scored braces in the win over the Top 5 newcomers in Ansan, a result which sets up nicely the battle for second place between Korea and Hong Kong this weekend.
Korea currently occupy second by a better point differential and with only three places separating the two rivals in the IRB World Rankings the encounter should be a close run affair in Ansan.
Perhaps more important is the other match on the final weekend of the Top 5 with the Philippines hosting UAE in Manila knowing that whoever wins will avoid relegation and remain in the hunt for that Asia 1 place at RWC 2015.