Japanese show no mercy to outclassed HK
The polite ways of the Japanese did not quite extend to the rugby field where Hong Kong were mercilessly drubbed 91-3 in a preliminary round Asian zone qualification match for the 2007 World Cup in Tokyo yesterday.
But Hong Kong rugby officials will take that beating, if Japanese courtesy would lead to the SAR getting a piece of the pie - hosting a few matches of the 2011 World Cup which Japan wants to host.
While the national team were spanking Hong Kong at will in front of an estimated 10,000-strong crowd at the Prince Chichibu Stadium yesterday, a high-powered Japanese Rugby Football Union delegation, led by former prime minister Yoshihiro Mori, was in Dublin presenting its case to host the 2011 World Cup to International Rugby Board officials.
After watching the one-way traffic in Tokyo, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union executive director Allan Payne's thoughts were on the SAR's hopes of hosting some of the World Cup matches if Japan wins the bid and becomes the first Asian country to host the Rugby World Cup.
'We have our hopes. Japan knows of our intentions and they know we are fully behind their bid to get the World Cup to Asia. Japan's bid is a solo bid at the moment, but that is not to say that they cannot give Hong Kong the chance to host a few matches if they win it,' said Payne.
The HKRFU last year revealed that it was keen to host one pool and a quarter-final at the 2011 World Cup if Japan beat South Africa and New Zealand to the hosting rights. Hong Kong remains hopeful. But on the pitch, all hope was lost by half-time when powerful Japanese winger Daisuke Ohata ran in four tries as the hosts led 43-3 at the break. Hong Kong's puny response was a penalty from flyhalf David Wigley. Barring that, it was all one-way traffic towards the SAR tryline.
'We were just totally outclassed. They ruled the set-pieces and we hardly had the ball. They had put out their strongest side and with all that possession, they just dominated,' Payne said.
Japan ran in 12 tries with Ohata scoring half-a-dozen. Veteran flyhalf Keiji Hirose kicked 10 conversions as the holiday-crowd enjoyed a feast of running rugby from their heroes.
'The crowd was very polite. They even clapped for us - whenever we had our moments,' said Payne. It is this innate politeness of the Japanese, which Hong Kong rugby hopes will bear fruit with an involvement in the 2011 World Cup.
In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post during the World Cup Sevens in March, Mori did not discount the possibility of Hong Kong playing a role.
Couching his words diplomatically, he said Hong Kong's interest in hosting a World Cup pool would be open to discussion - if Japan got the nod from the IRB when the decision was taken in November.
'This is probably something we can talk about if we win the bid. There are a lot of games to be played. It is even possible to have a role for all of Asia, for this is a bid in the name of Asia. Japan is proud to be representing Asia and trying to bring the World Cup to Asia for the first time,' Mori said.
'Japan can host a very successful World Cup. The hospitality of the Japanese people and the fact that rugby is very popular in our country would make the World Cup a success,' Mori added.
The hospitality did not extend on to the pitch. Despite brave performances from captain and centre Brett Forsyth, and pack leader Tom Cameron, and a sterling debut from fullback Paul Morehu - who Payne said 'tackled his heart out' - Hong Kong were over-run.