Japan's disappointing performances at last year's World Cup in South Africa highlighted the gulf that exists between the top rugby powers and Asia. Japan's naivety was mainly due to the lack of competition against top-quality sides. But now Japan, and other 'second and third tier' countries in the region, including Hong Kong, have the chance to move out of the shade and into the limelight thanks to a new tournament - the Pan Pacific series. Apart from Hong Kong, Japan will be joined by strong teams from Argentina, United States, Canada, Tonga, Fiji and Western Samoa - sides who have all played at the World Cup at some stage. It is hoped that all teams will benefit from this tournament and make them better prepared for the big boys next time their paths cross. Japan will also be hoping for an upturn in their sevens prowess. They reached a low in 1993 when they played in the Bowl competition. Although they won the Bowl, Japan had previously been accustomed to playing in nothing less than the Plate. Japan won the Plate in 1980.