x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Asian Five Nations: Japan's improved display sounds ominous warning for rivals

Japan's 121-0 hammering of Philippines is somewhat of a double-edged sword for Emirates rugby, after their record 111-0 loss is trumped.

The UAE kicked off their Asian Five Nations campaign in Hong Kong yesterday buoyed by the knowledge they had already managed to pass on one unwanted record.

Japan's 121-0 hammering of Philippines in Fukuoka, which finished before the UAE's encounter in Hong Kong, was somewhat of a double-edged sword for Emirates rugby.

It meant the UAE could dispense with the record for the heaviest defeat in this competition, the 111-0 loss they suffered on home soil two years ago.

However, it was a reminder of how tough the future tests facing them in this year's Five Nations could be, especially when the champions return to Dubai next month.

One significant concern for the rest of the field in their bid to catch the Japanese is that their side is still regarded as a developmental one, with an eye on the World Cup in two years' time.

"We are really looking to use the Asian Five Nations to build the base of our game," Eddie Jones, the Japan coach, said in a televised interview after the game.

"We are trying to get physically stronger and I think we showed that a little bit today. In the next three games we want to improve out set piece, we know we can attack and we are looking forward to Hong Kong next week."

The size of the defeat will have dented the wave of optimism Philippines Volcanoes were riding on their first appearance in the top flight of Asian rugby.

Their rise to the top tier has been swift, and Jarred Hodges, their coach, acknowledged they still have much to improve if they are to compete at this level.

"We still have a lot to work on, no doubt," Hodges said.

"Japan were fantastic and it gave us a real eye-opening as to what has to occur for us to be at this level."

pradley@thenational.ae