HONG KONG'S tour of Japan next month has taken on added importance after the Asian rugby champions defeated Fiji in two internationals recently, national coach George Simpkin said yesterday.
Fiji went down to Japan in both Tests, losing the first narrowly by 24-18, and the second 20-8.
The Japanese wins have confirmed Simpkin's view that the forthcoming tour by Hong Kong, from June 11-19, is of vital significance to the territory's hopes of qualifying for next year's Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
''This is the perfect time to go there. We will be up against it and after these games, we will know exactly what is required,'' said Simpkin.
''If we hadn't taken this opportunity, we would not be able to see first-hand what Japan are like. Now we can video all the matches and analyse the games and our players' performances carefully,'' added Simpkin.
Hong Kong will play one international in Sapporo on June 18 while the other two games will be against the Japanese under-23 side (June 12, in Kyoto) and a Japan Select XV (June 15, in Hakodate).
Japan hosted Fiji early this month, as part of their build-up to the all-important Asian Rugby Football Tournament to be played in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in October.
Reports from Tokyo indicate that the Japanese have made tremendous strides in their technique and fitness levels, and that they are a far more physical unit.
''It seems that they are a physically stronger and fitter side than what we have seen in the past,'' said Simpkin.
Hong Kong finished runners-up to Japan at the last Asian championships in Seoul. On that occasion, the territory pulled off a remarkable win over the then Asian champions South Korea to progress into the final.
The territory are again grouped with South Korea.
The winner of October's tournament will represent Asia in the 1995 World Cup.