Top 5 – Teams

By 2013 Asian 5 Nations Top 5 rankings

Japan

Japan

 

A sensational six for six championships in A5N play and it is unlikely anyone will be able to stop the Brave Blossoms from dominating the seventh season of the Asian Five Nations Top Five competition - and qualifying directly for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Asia 1.

 

Former Australia Wallaby coach Eddie Jones will be keen to ensure a good build-up to Japan's international season and to maintain the Brave Blossoms' remarkable clean sheet of never having lost an A5N match.

 

With vast amounts of experience to draw on, sprinkled with the odd flying winger find, Japan will again be a tough challenge for their fellow Top 5 teams.

 

South Korea

 

Last season, South Korea proved that their surprise demotion to Division I in 2011 was an aberration as they returned to claim their time honoured mantle as Asia's second best side, finishing as runners-up to Japan in 2012 and 2013. 

 

A repeat performance in 2014 will see South Korea qualify for the Rugby World Cup 2015 repechage match versus Uruguay (Americas 3) in August.  

 

South Korea host Japan this year but their biggest challenge could be in the away match to Hong Kong in week 3 - in what is shaping up to be the decider for the runners-up spot in Asia and a second bite at RWC qualification.

 

With a number of their top guns playing in Japan, the Koreans will be an ever-present danger, especially at home and if they have their best available for selection. 

HKRFU

Hong Kong

 

Hong Kong slipped to third place in the Top 5 last year but retained their proud distinction of being the only team apart from Japan to have never been demoted from the top flight in Asia's premier 15s competition. 

 

Hong Kong will be determined to regain their position as number two to keep their Rugby World Cup dream alive, but Hong Kong's hopefuls will first have to overcome the challenge of playing three test matches in the space of 15 days.

 

Hong Kong open their campaign at home versus the Philippines before traveling to Sri Lanka for week 2. They return home for the crunch match versus South Korea at Football Club but will be well aware of the dangers the Korean pose, having let their last home match versus Korea slip through their fingers (21-19) in 2012. 

 

The last six years have seen Hong Kong be the only team which has looked capable of matching Japan up-front and some key additions to the pack could further strengthen their claim in 2014.

 

Hong Kong warmed up for the Top 5 with two matches at home versus Belgium - games which saw a strong effort from the new-look forward pack. Coach Leigh Jones' emphasis on strong forward play and taking the game to Belgium was rewarded when Hong Kong swept the Belgians to improve their world ranking to 25th.

 

Philippines

 

One of the most successful teams in Asian Five Nations competition, the Volcanoes had a rude awakening to the demands of Top 5 rugby, opening their first ever campaign in the top flight with a heavy loss to Japan in last year's opener.

 

Further losses came at the hands of South Korea and Hong Kong leaving the team with everything to play for in last season's week 5 match versus United Arab Emirates.

 

Steamy conditions and strong play helped the Volcanoes win the relegation battle, sending UAE to this year's Division I tournament. The Volcanoes now have an understanding of what Top 5 rugby requires and have had an off-season to build up for this year's campaign.

 

The Volcanoes will be keen to cement the sport’s growing reputation back in the Philippines by showing improvement in the 2014 season.

 

Sri Lanka 

 

Winners of the Division I competition held in Colombo, Sri Lanka mark its first return to Top 5 rugby since 2011.

 

The Lankans stormed into the Top Five with an unbeaten run in Division One with wins over Kazakhstan, Chinese-Taipei and Thailand and will be looking to bring their potent rugby blend of a beefy forward pack and lightning-quick backs to bear on their return to Asia's elite competition.

 

Sri Lanka will be eyeing two matches in particular, their home battles versus Hong Kong and the Philippines, as their best shots to stake their claim to qualifying for the Rugby World Cup 2015 - but away tests to Japan in Nagoya and South Korea in Seoul could prove obstacles too large to overcome for this talented, hard-working side.

 

 

 

See also

Top 5 – Table

Top 5 – Match Results

Top 5 – Top scorers

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