Over the past week, and in different corners of the globe, Asian Rugby took strides forward. For the men it was all about consolidation, for the women it was about breaking new ground.
Starting in Fukuoka Japan, where the sun rises, the Japanese men’s national side beat Uruguay 30-8 in a World Cup warm-up match. It was return to winning ways for Japan, who are ranked number 14 by World Rugby. This result consolidates their position, and gives them a needed boost ahead of the tournament in September. The teams play again this weekend.
In Hong Kong, in the Asian U20 Sevens tournament, Hong Kong men won comfortably, beating Malaysia 52-7 in the final. This followed on from their victory in Johor last weekend, and confirmed Hong Kong as champions for the second season running. They were never troubled over the two days, amassing over 250 points in six games, and only conceded 28points.Their fitness, discipline and all-round skill proved too much for the opposition. Most of the Hong Kong U20 squad will graduate into the senior ranks. This tournament continues to provide an excellent format for younger players to hone skills ahead of senior rugby.
In the women’s U20 format, Japan beat China in the final 31-0; and Hong Kong beat Thailand in the plate. The final was an excellent match and testimony to the progress in women’s rugby visible season to season in Asia. The handling and passing skill was impressive, as was support play and tackling. All four teams had moments to savour, but Japan had the most consistently, fitness and discipline, and ran out deserved winners.
In Ireland, Asian women were again to the fore, in the Women’s Sevens Series qualifiier tournament in Dublin. Two teams were looking to gain core status for the Tournament in 2015-16. Three Asian teams were represented, Japan, China and Hong Kong. Japan reached the final, beating Holland 10-5 in their semi-final; by doing so, now become a core team in 2015-16. They join Ireland, who beat South Africa in their semi-final 26-14. Japan beat Ireland in a close final, 13-12, with a penalty drop goal that sealed a come from behind victory for Japan.
In the Plate, Hong Kong lost to Brazil on the final 17-0, but over the two days, Hong Kong women battled bravely, and beat China in the semi final 14-10. The fitness and teamwork by Hong Kong improved throughout the tournament. They are establishing themselves as a real force in Asian women’s rugby. This tournament was a terrific opportunity to benchmark the improvement of the squad after the decision to strengthen the investment by HKRFU in women’s rugby under the leadership of Anna Richards.
Overall, a very good weekend for Asian rugby: Japan back to winning ways, with victory for their men at fifteens and women at sevens; and encouraging signs for women’s rugby in Asia with the emergence of Hong Kong as a real force in women’s world rugby with their encouraging display in Ireland to reach the Plate Final beating China for the first time in a major tournament.
Grahame Carder is a sports enthusiast, writer and former player from representative Schoolboy level, through University and most corners where he’s lived. Currently works as Consultant on Strategy and Marketing.