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Rugby: Can Japan save their core status on Sevens World Series?

Chihito Matsui scores one of his two tries in Japan’s 26-12 win over Samoa. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Seras Lima.

Chihito Matsui scores one of his two tries in Japan’s 26-12 win over Samoa. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Seras Lima.

April 5, 2015: Japan gave themselves a miraculous boost in their bid to save their place as a core team on the HSBC Sevens World Series by reaching the Cup quarter-finals in the Tokyo Sevens, their first time in the top eight of an event since 2000.

 

Japan became Asia’s first core side by winning last year’s qualifier in Hong Kong, but have been bottom of the 15 core sides throughout the 2014/15 series, picking up the minimal one point at each of the first five legs.

 

A week before the Tokyo Sevens, Japan picked up two points in Hong Kong, but only courtesy of a victory over lowly Belgium, a non-core side invited to take up the 16th and final spot in the World Series event.

 

However, in front of their home crowd on Saturday, Japan opened with a 14-14 draw with Argentina before pulling off one of the season’s shocks by beating once-mighty Samoa 26-12, with Chihito Matsui scoring two tries. Although Japan lost 24-19 to France, the hosts edged Samoa into second place in Pool D on point difference and booked a surprise place in the Cup quarter-finals.

 

Japan picked up 10 points at the Tokyo Sevens as they look to save their place on the World Series.

Japan picked up 10 points at the Tokyo Sevens as they look to save their place on the World Series.

On Sunday, Japan were overrun 41-5 by defending champions Fiji in the Cup quarter-finals and lost 14-5 to Scotland in the Plate semi-finals, but still secured 10 points to move to 17 overall, just eight points short of 14th-placed Portugal with two events to go. Portugal won the fourth-tier Shield to earn three points in Tokyo, moving them to 25.

 

The bottom-placed side among the 15 core teams after London (May 16-17) will be relegated and replaced next season by Russia, who qualified in Hong Kong.

 

Japan will next seek to make up the difference on Portugal in Glasgow (May 9-10), where they will again face Argentina in Pool D, along with Canada and USA.

 

As Tokyo champions, England head Pool A and will face France, Australia and Russia, South Africa will meet New Zealand, Samoa and Kenya in Pool B, while Fiji are joined by Scotland, Wales and Portugal in Pool C.

 

HSBC Sevens World Series 2014/15: Standings

1. South Africa           129 (15, 22, 22, 17, 17, 17, 19)

2. Fiji                          125 (22, 17, 12, 13, 22, 22, 17)

3. New Zealand          120 (13, 15, 19, 22, 19, 19, 13)

4. England                  100 (17, 10, 10, 19, 12, 10, 22)

5. Australia                  91 (10, 19, 17, 12, 13, 13, 7)

6. USA                         71 (8, 5, 13, 10, 15, 12, 8)

7. Scotland                  67 (5, 12, 10, 15, 5, 8, 12)

8. Argentina                 66 (12, 13, 15, 7, 7, 10, 2)

9. Samoa                     56 (19, 8, 2, 2, 5, 15, 5)

10. France                   54 (7, 7, 5, 8, 10, 7, 10)

11. Canada                  47 (3, 3, 8, 3, 10, 5, 15)

12. Wales                    42 (10, 10, 5, 5, 2, 5, 5)

13. Kenya                    33 (2, 2, 7, 10, 8, 3, 1)

14. Portugal                 25 (5, 5, 3, 5, 3, 1, 3)

15. Japan                    17 (1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 10)

Note: Showing core teams only; Points for each leg in brackets

 

For more information, visit: www.worldrugby.org/sevens-series

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