Saturday, May 7, 2011

TEST RUGBY: Asia 5 Nations Special Match

Kazakhstan v Japan in Bangkok (Asia5Nations)

Venue: Supachalasai Stadium


Kazakhstan and Japan wing into Bangkok to stage their Asia 5 Nations clash. It’s part of Asia Rugby’s promotion of rugby throughout Asia and in particular the minor nations. The Asia Nations Division 2 competition will play it’s finals match (Thailand v Chinese Taipei) as one of the curtain-raisers to this huge match in Bangkok.

First neutral Top 5 match kicks-off in Bangkok as Division II showpiece

Asia 5 Nations logo

[Bangkok, May 6, 2011]: Japan enter Saturday’s HSBC Asian Five Nations clash with Kazakhstan in Bangkok with coach John Kirwan’s words still ringing in their ears. Kirwan was not a happy man last week, despite the Brave Blossoms getting their 2011 campaign off to a winning start. Japan beat Hong Kong 45-22 but it was a performance that left the former All Black very unhappy.

“If we went by the standards we set ourselves for playing the likes of Fiji and Samoa then we actually ‘lost’ last week’s game 48-22,” he said ahead of Saturday’s triple header in Thailand that also sees India take on Iran in the Division II relegation match and the hosts Thailand play Chinese Taipei in the Division II final at the National Stadium.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Hong Kong as they hustled and bustled us.  But we didn’t perform as well as we should. It’s been an edgy week and the players have got a bit to prove,” added Kirwan.

Kirwan has made wholesale changes to the starting XV, but stressed that was always on the cards. The only surprise was the appointment of tighthead prop Kensuke Hatakeyama as captain – though regular skipper Takashi Kikutani will act as vice-captain.

Japan has the luxury of being able to leave out a player of the quality of Ryu Holani. Picture credit-Raf Sanchez/Power of Sport

“This is a great opportunity to show the people of Tohuku and Japan that we have not forgotten them. Hatakeyama will lead the team to show our unity and courage,” said Kirwan.

The 25-year-old Hatakeyama is from Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, and his family home was destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“I will try to inspire my teammates to work hard,” Hatakeyama said. “I would very much like to convey our team message to the people in my hometown and the Tohoku region and show our unity and courage through a hard game.”

The Waseda University graduate is one of two positional switches and 10 personnel changes to the starting XV that took the field against Hong Kong. Hisateru Hirashima and Takeshi Kizu join the new captain in the front row and there is a new second row pairing with the recall of veterans Hitoshi Ono and Luke Thompson.

Kikutani moves from flanker to No. 8 where he is joined by flankers Toetsu Taufa and Itaru Taniguchi.

Fumiaki Tanaka comes in to partner Shaun Webb at halfback, one of three players to keep his place and position. Webb, center Koji Taira and wing Alisi Tupuailai are joined in the backline by Taihei Ueda (who moves from fullback to wing), inside centre Yuta Imamura and fullback Atsushi Tanabe. Goshi Tachikawa, who joined the squad in Hong Kong last Sunday to replace Ryohei Yamanaka, is one of the seven replacements.

Japan won last year’s game at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya Stadium 101-7, but Kirwan wants his players to forget that and concentrate on their own performances.

“It’s all about performance,” he said. “The players must give 100 percent every time they wear the national jersey. I am sure Kazakhstan will have a few things up their sleeves and we must adapt to whatever they throw at us.”

The Kazakhs come into the game on the back of two losses and defeat here would mean they must beat Sri Lanka in their final match if they are to avoid relegation.

Previous Encounters
15.05.2010 Japan 101-7 in Tokyo (Asia5Nations)
24.04.2009 Japan 87-10 in Osaka (Asia5Nations)
10.05.2008 Japan 82-6 in Almaty (Asia5Nations)

GWC Rugby Rankings
World Table
Japan 13th, Kazakhstan 26th

Asia Table
Japan 1st, Kazakhstan 4th

IRB Ranking Points
Japan 71.45, Kazakhstan 53.54

Prediction: Japan by 64 points




1. Hisateru Hirashima 2. Takeshi Kizu 3. Kensuke Hatakeyama, Capt 4. Hitoshi Ono 5. Luke Thompson 6. Itar Taniguchi 7. Toetuu Taufa 8. Takashi Kikutani 9. Fumiaki Tanaka 10. Shaun Webb 11. Taihei Ueda 12. Yuta Imamura 13. Koji Taira 14. Alisi Tupuailai 15. Atsushi Tanabe 16. Hiroki Yuhara 17. Naoki Kawamata 18. Justin Ives 19. Michael Leitch 20. Atsushi Hiwasa 21. James Arlidge 22. Goshi Tachikawa
Head Coach: John Kirwan


Kazakhstan Squad not available

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