Asian 5 Nations
Japan dedicate games to quake victims
April 28, 2011
Sri Lanka's Nuwan Hettiarachchi dives in to score against the UAE in Colombo © Asian Five Nations
Japan coach John Kirwin has dedicated all their games in the build-up to this year's Rugby World Cup to the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami in March.
Japan begin their preparations for the tournament, which starts in New Zealand in September, against Hong Kong in the Asian 5 Nations on Saturday at the Hong Kong Football Club. Hong Kong top the table following their victory over Kazakhstan on the opening day of the competition, as Japan had a rest weekend.
"We are dedicating our season to the people of Japan. The players want to try and send a positive message to their countrymen who have suffered from the earthquake and tsunami," Kirwan said.
"We are trying to implement a few new things and we will be trying that out against Hong Kong. Last year, in our opening game in this competition, we had a poor first 40 minutes and I have told the players that is unacceptable.
"I'm expecting a hard-fought game against Hong Kong who in Asia is the team who puts us under most pressure. I want our guys to react positively to this pressure. I'm not worried so much about the outcome. Of course I want to win, but the points difference is not important. What is important is how we play."
Japan's build-up to September's World Cup will feature ten Tests - four in the 5 Nations, three in the Pacific Nations Cup, one-off Tests against Italy and the United States, and a charity game against a World All Stars on June 24 in Tokyo.
Hong Kong have been forced into changes ahead of their "biggest test match" this year. They retain the majority of the side that beat Kazakhstan 23-10 on the opening weekend but Alex Harris replaces the injured Brent Taylor at hooker and Renaud Chavanis comes in at second row alongside Michael Waller, who deputises for Oliver Jones who suffered a hand injury in training this week.
"Making changes ahead of Japan isn't ideal," admitted head coach Dai Rees. "But we know what Japan are. Japan is the biggest test match we have on an annual basis and is the key clash for our 15-aside players each year. Playing Japan lets us know how good we are as players and as a team, and the lads relish that challenge."
In the round's other match Kazakhstan travel to Abu Dhabi to take on the United Arab Emirates. The UAE drew 13-13 with Sri Lanka in torrential conditions in Colombo and UAE skipper Mike Cox-Hill is looking to press home the advantage against Kazakhstan.
"Given the conditions we faced in Colombo, it was not a bad result to come away with. I guess Sri Lanka must be feeling disappointed that we got away with a draw, but the conditions were a great leveller. Now we must look forward and try to seal our place in this competition by defeating Kazakhstan," UAE skipper Cox-Hill said.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
We bring you our pick of the best pictures from around the world in the last seven days with the battle for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup glory taking centre stage
"If you listen carefully you should be able to hear them mining the granite for the statue of a certain Jonny Wilkinson" Graham Jenkins reports from the Heineken Cup Final
Quade Cooper's defence is better than it was 12 months ago and Robbie Deans has erred in omitting him from the core Wallabies squad to play the Lions, Greg Growden writes
"People on the outside think unfounded thoughts on Toulon." Tom Hamilton talks to RCT lock Nick Kennedy ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Clermont