World Cup-bound Japan will respect Five Nations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 January, 2011, 12:00am

World-Cup bound Japan will field their strongest squad at this year's HSBC Asian Five Nations (A5N) tournament as they look to hone their game with a view to finishing in the top eight in New Zealand later this year.

Japan, Asia's sole representatives at the World Cup in September and October, will play nine tests in the run-up to the New Zealand showpiece and promised to field their top side in the regional competition, which enters its fourth year.

Japan may be head and shoulders above the rest of the field in the Top Five competition - Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka - but Japan's team manager Takenori Omura pledged his country would continue to show 'respect' to Asia's premier tournament.

'We will only field players from our World Cup squad at the Asian Five Nations,' Omura said.

'We regard this as an important tournament in the build-up to the World Cup.'

Omura said that although Japan had easily dominated the last three years of the Asian Five Nations, the tournament was still regarded as a vital early-season international event.

'We might have won easily in the past but we still respect the competition. This tournament is crucial to our goal of growing the game in Asia,' Omura said. 'And it is even more important this year due to the World Cup.'

Japan are drawn in pool A at the World Cup alongside hosts New Zealand, France, Tonga and Canada.

A preliminary squad of 40 will get together for the first time under their coach, the renowned All Black winger John Kirwan, at the end of this month before it is pruned to 30 for the A5N.

'We will play four tests in the A5N; then three against Samoa, Fiji and Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup, plus two one-off tests against Italy and the United States,' Omura said.

'Our goal this time at the World Cup will be to win a couple of matches and advance to the quarterfinals.'