Japan’s build up toward the 2003 Rugby World Cup suffered yet another setback on Sunday with a 43-34 loss to Russia in a Super Powers Cup game at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya Stadium.

The result — a turnaround from the 59-19 victory for Japan in May 2002 (the only other time the two countries have met) — highlighted just how much work needs to be done before the team departs for Australia in October.

The Russians, who were thrown out of the World Cup qualifying rounds for fielding ineligible players made the Japanese players look very ordinary and exposed a number of glaring weaknesses in the home side.

Though not the quickest team in the world they constantly harried their opponents and denied the “Cherry Blossoms” any opportunity to use their back three, whose defensive frailities were directly at fault for three of Russia’s five tries.

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