x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Japan are the real losers in the Asian Five Nations

Japan are Asia's best side to the extent that they have no real rivals in the continent. The lack of competition is not good for the growth of the game back home.

Japan, right, were too good for Hong Kong during the Asian Five Nations, winning 67-0.
Japan, right, were too good for Hong Kong during the Asian Five Nations, winning 67-0.

The Asian Five Nations needs a rethink. For all the good will behind it, the tournament that was set up five years ago to improve standards on the continent to the extent Japan would have genuine competition is continuing to do anything but.

With one weekend still to play, the Japanese have already clinched a fifth successive title, accruing their 20th bonus-point wins in 20 attempts in the process.

They beat Hong Kong – a semi-professional side who had put 87 points on the UAE in the same tournament – 67-0 last week. And all this with an embryonic team who are more bothered about what happens at the next Rugby World Cup in 2015.

Five years ago, they put three-figures up against the Arabian Gulf. This season they did the same against the UAE. Where is the progress? Neither the victor nor the vanquished gains anything from 100-point drubbings.

If it was schools or club rugby, the fixture would have been dropped long ago. Or maybe they would have mixed the teams up at half time.

Why, then, is it allowed to persist at international level?

Japan want change. "The best result for us would be to win 15-13," Eddie Jones, Japan's new coach, said ahead of their fixtures against South Korea and Hong Kong.

It is not going to happen any time soon, though – unless they field an A-side, or even an under 19 version. Then perhaps the chasms in the competition will not look so vast.

sports@thenational.ae

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