Japan prevail in the rain as Hong Kong eye final assault
Asian champions dispose of opponents as they play a territorial kicking game
Japan will continue to play a territorial kicking game if the conditions remain wet at So Kon Po, said talismanic Lote Tuqiri as the Asian champions marched imperiously into the semi-finals of the 12-team qualifiers to decide the solitary team which will be promoted as a core side into the IRB Sevens World Series next season.
With conditions underfoot made treacherous by stormy weather which hit a packed Hong Kong Stadium before lunchtime, Japan changed their game plan accordingly in the knockout stage as they came up against Tunisia, kicking the ball deep into their opponent's half and relying on defence to force errors.
It worked beautifully as Japan swept aside Tunisia 38-7 with Tuqiri scoring three of the first four tries.
Happy that tactic worked like a dream, the Japanese say they will stick to that plan as they face Russia, out to annex a World Series spot, in the semi-finals.
"We had to change our focus and our game plan because of the weather," Tuqiri said.
"We will kick the ball back and defend well. We have got to play territorial rugby. This is the way to go."
Like Hong Kong, the pressure is on Japan to deliver.
Rugby sevens is not all that big in Japan, but with the country hosting the 2019 World Cup (15s), the Japanese Rugby Football Union believes it is the final part of the jigsaw, especially with the 2016 Olympics coming up.
"It is very important to Japan that we get into the World Series for that will lift the profile of sevens back in Japan and help develop the game further," said Fijian-born Tuqiri, who has been a regular member of the sevens squad since 2011.
Japan have one eye on the final and have no qualms if they come up against Hong Kong, whose players spent some time yesterday watching their arch-rivals crush Tunisia.
"They are looking good. I suppose we know them better than anyone else and if we get to play them, it will be a good game," said Rowan Varty.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong head coach Gareth Baber concurred that the wet conditions would call for more of a kicking game, but he wasn't ready to go as far as Tuqiri and say the home team would only use this tactic.
"Yes, you will see a lot more kicking but that doesn't mean we will throw everything else out of the window," Baber said.
"Sometimes in a player's mind the ball doesn't travel to hand as quickly, it takes a longer time to control and you have to think of ways about how you can stick to your own game and don't give up errors."