Ja­pan now chase a Rio Sev­ens spot

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

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