Japan sevens mainstay Lote Tuqiri believes "anything can happen" in 2020, with excitement about rugby in the country on the up
Rugby World Cup performance can inspire Japan at the Olympics, says sevens star
With the Tokyo Olympic Games coming hot on the heals of the Rugby World Cup in 2020, one sevens star believes Japan can shock the world again in the abbreviated form of the game.
In 2016 at the Rio Olympics, Japan men stunned New Zealand in the group stages. They went on to finish fourth in that event, where Fiji men and Australia women claimed gold medals. Now, according to Japan men’s star Lote Tuqiri, the hosts can emulate the heroics of the Brave Blossoms in 2019.
“The way we are training and picking teams, I’m confident we can create upsets in the Olympics,” Tuqiri tells Rugby World. “Anything can happen in sevens.
“The 15s performances now are going to be really good for Japan in 2020. It’s a big boost for the sevens players. We were in Sri Lanka when they beat Ireland and after that you could see the boys’ eyes – they were really hungry. Seeing an upset like that, we want to go out and do the same for our country in 2020.”
Japan men and women both claimed titles at the recent Sri Lanka sevens. However, neither of the sides are ‘core teams’ on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series next season, with Japan men losing their top status last term. They will ultimately have a different build-up to the Games than most of their competition.
Regardless, Tuqiri believes that if the national excitement generated by this year’s World Cup can carry over into 2020 it will give an advantage to both sevens sides.
“At the moment everyone is focused on 15s, but as soon as the World Cup is over, it’s probably (best to) focus on sevens,” he says.”I think it’s really important. As a sevens player, you need to play with the same platform as the 15s, keep improving and create more upsets.”
It should also help that World Cup sensation Kenki Fukuoka has already declared that he will play in the Olympics next season.
Related: Get to know Kenki Fukuoka
“He’s going to be really good,” a confident Tuqiri says of Fukuoka. “Since everyone knows him – he is very popular – I think he will make sevens more popular too. He is playing really well and everyone knows who Kenki is, so it’s going to be a big boost for sevens rugby in Japan.
“He was with us at the last Olympics and now he is back to 15s, he is close to Michael Leitch (for influence). I think he is going to bring more people to sevens rugby.”
As core teams, Japan men and women are already qualified for the Games. As it stands, Fiji, USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Canada and Great Britain have already qualified for the men’s tournament in Toky0. There are four qualification spots left.
For the women’s Olympic sevens, New Zealand, the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain and Kenya have all qualified. There are also four spots left to fill.
We will know the full line-ups for both after the final qualifier event on 20-21 June.
Keep track of events in Japan via our Rugby World Cup homepage.
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