Japan eye top-four finish in S'pore

Yoshikazu Fujita running with the ball during Japan's Rugby World Cup match with the United States in October. The young Japanese player will be seen in action in Singapore in April.
Yoshikazu Fujita running with the ball during Japan's Rugby World Cup match with the United States in October. The young Japanese player will be seen in action in Singapore in April.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Japan made seismic waves when they pulled off the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history by stunning two-time former champions South Africa last September.

Come April, the Brave Blossoms will want a repeat performance in front of local rugby fans by targeting a top four finish at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series at the Singapore Sports Hub, where the Republic hosts the eighth stop of the 10-legged series.

Japan's head coach Tomohiro Segawa said: "At the Singapore Sevens, as Asia's representative in an Asian country, so we want to beat the top teams... We want to qualify for the Cup and our target is a top four finish in Singapore.

"Following the success at the Rugby World Cup, now it's our turn to deliver a message on how good Japan rugby is to the world."

Japan, a wildcard entrant to the April 16-17 tournament, are the only Asian team in the 16-nation field, which includes powerhouses New Zealand, England and France.

  • HSBC World Rugby 7s Series, Singapore leg

  • Where: Singapore Sports Hub

    When: April 16 and 17

    Tickets: $25-$75 (youth) and $50-$150 (adult) two-day passes are available at Sports Hub Tix.

The Asian champions will boast Yoshikazu Fujita, who landed the second of three tries for Japan in their 28-18 victory over the United States at the World Cup.

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping said: "Japan will want to go all out to make sure that, when they host the Olympics in 2020, they will win the gold medal.

"I think local fans will more readily relate themselves to the Japanese because they are Asians."

All Blacks fan Tang Meng Kit, a 29-year-old aerospace engineer, is already looking forward to the action at the National Stadium, saying: "It's exciting to watch these world-class players play live. The atmosphere will be great."

With Rugby Sevens set to make its debut at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Japanese players will be looking to tune up heading into Brazil.

At the first leg of the series in Dubai last month, Japan were runners-up to Canada in the Shield competition, the lowest among the four trophies. But they scored two victories, against Russia (21-19) and Canada (21-7).

Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'Japan eye top-four finish in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe