Japan now chase a Rio Sevens spot
JAPAN’S Sevens side will aim to continue the rugby buzz created by the Brave Blossoms’ World Cup exploits when they try to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the Asian qualifier in Hong Kong this weekend.
Japan’s 15-a-side team produced the biggest shock in World Cup history when they stunned twice champions South Africa in their opening fixture in September, going on to win a bestever three matches in an admirable group stage exit.
The result spiked interest in the sport ahead of their hosting of the next World Cup in 2019, with 25 million watching on television at home as they beat Samoa in their third pool game.
“We need to continue the momentum created by the Brave Blossoms’ win over South Africa,” Kensuke Iwabuchi, general manager of the Japan national teams, told Kyodo News yesterday.
“If we lose this weekend then that momentum is lost. The players understand how important it is.”
The Japanese men finished last on the World Sevens Series earlier this year to lose their core status but will start as red-hot favourites in Hong Kong, where the hosts are expected to provide the most trouble.
Squad member Lote Tuquiri said the World Cup performances had inspired the side to think big. “We now realise we can beat the big teams. It’s all about heart,” he said.
The women’s eight-team qualifier also takes place in Hong Kong this weekend. – Reuters