Japan captain Dai Ozawa said ahead of the Hong Kong Sevens his side had the confidence to replicate the class of 2016 in winning the World Rugby Sevens Series qualifier in Hong Kong.
He called on those that had played in 2016 to lead his side to victory and, paired with outstanding individual performances, they did just that.
After losing to Chile in the pool stages they played four knock-out matches to secure the win. First they had to beat Uganda to qualify from their pool, before dispatching Uruguay in the quarter-finals.
In the semi-final and final their experience really showed. Despite trailing in both matches with the final hooter having sounded, they went the entire length of the pitch to score two dramatic late winners and claim a momentous win.
Their next assignment sees them travel to Singapore at the end of the month to play in the main series as the 16th side, but Ozawa knows the importance of playing on the World Series for rugby in Japan.
“I am glad to be promoted,” said Ozawa.
“But we can’t be satisfied just with this result. It’s essential for us to be a part of the top level in sevens and we need to keep working hard.
“By qualifying as a core team, this is just a stepping stone for us. It’s part of our development, looking towards the Rugby World Cup Sevens, next year, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
It was tears of joy for the team at the final whistle in Hong Kong, sparking celebrations similar to those in 2016.
Having qualified then Japan were relegated the following season, something they will look to improve on when the new seasons starts in Dubai in December.
First however it’s Singapore, where Damian Karauna’s side will face Hong Kong champions Fiji, Spain and Russia in Pool A after the draw was made following Fiji’s fourth successive Cup win in Hong Kong.