Rugby: Japan new sevens coach Karauna demands improvement at World Seven Series

SINGAPORE - A stellar run that led to Japan narrowly missing out on a podium finish at the Rio Olympics has offered new national sevens coach Damian Karauna hope for the ongoing HSBC World Sevens Series season.

The Japanese have lost all 10 matches across the opening legs in Dubai and Cape Town last month and Karauna had demanded improvement from his players.

The third stop is in Wellington, New Zealand, on Jan 28-29.

The 41-year-old New Zealander, who was assistant and skills coach with the All Blacks Sevens team from 2012 to 2016, said in a media release on Wednesday (Jan 11): "As a team we were disappointed in our efforts on defence and we will be working hard to improve this before this month's Wellington Sevens.

"OveralI, I felt our attack was very good and we gave ourselves many opportunities. There will be more changes for Wellington 7s and Sydney 7s. We need to give a new group of players much needed experience on the HSBC World Sevens Series, but I am excited and encouraged with what lies ahead for this team."

The potential of the Japanese was clear. At the Olympic Games, they beat top sides like New Zealand, Kenya and France before losing to South Africa in the bronze-medal play-off.

Karauna said: "Our main aim this season is to stay in the World Seven Series and requalify for next season. The HSBC World Sevens Series will give our players experience and allows us to develop the squad depth.

"We want to achieve consistent performances and improve our rankings in the HSBC World Sevens Series, but ultimately, it is important to set the foundation for 2020 Tokyo Olympics."

Japan was the only Asian team to compete at last year's Singapore Rugby Sevens held at the National Stadium. This year's edition will be on April 15-16.

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