A week after returning from Hong Kong following the shortened finale to the Asia Rugby Championship, Japan coach Eddie Jones was still seething Sunday about the game being called off and the Brave Blossoms’ subsequent drop in the world rankings.
“Because it’s Japan everyone just accepts the decision. But we shouldn’t,” he told Kyodo News of the ruling that saw the game at Aberdeen Sports Ground abandoned as a draw despite Japan leading 3-0.
“In 13 minutes they touched the ball once and kicked it. We have been penalized because of the rain and it’s cost us world ranking points. It’s not just and we shouldn’t accept it,” Jones said.
Tournament rules dictate an abandoned game be designated as a draw — meaning Japan’s 31-game winning streak in the ARC and its predecessor the Asian 5 Nations came to an end, and the Brave Blossoms dropped from 11th to 13th in the world rankings.
“Imagine if Australia were playing New Zealand and the game was abandoned meaning the All Blacks’ winning streak came to an end. It simply wouldn’t happen,” he added.
Jones said Hong Kong coach Andy Hall had made it very clear his team wasn’t interested in playing, knowing the draw would allow the hosts to finish above South Korea in the tournament.
“When the referee called the match officials and coaches over for the first time after six minutes, Andy said ‘Even if the officials decide the game is going ahead, we are not going to play.’ “
Hall wrote last week in a column for the South China Morning Post that he thought his side could have pulled off an upset given the wet conditions. But Jones dismissed this instantly.
“So why didn’t they want to play?” he said.
Statistics also prove that Hall’s claim was fanciful to say the least.
Since 1998, when Hong Kong last beat Japan — ironically at Aberdeen — the two sides have met 12 times, with Japan winning all 12 and scoring 768 points to Hong Kong’s 86.
“I don’t mind us dropping down the rankings if we have been beaten fair and square and deserved it,” said Jones. “But we have been allocated a draw against a side we have consistently beaten. It was simply a case of the referee and the other side not wanting to play, and it’s a farce.”
Jones went on to say that the world rankings dictate what opponents a side gets in future test matches and that from a commercial point of view a drop could also have consequences.
“We have a full book of sponsors for no other reason then we have been successful of late,” he said. “The whole process needs to be clarified.”
Asian Rugby Football Union president Trevor Gregory defended the decision to stop the game in an interview in Hong Kong with Kyodo News the day after the game, saying medical personnel had said the pitch was dangerous following two 20-minute delays while officials tried to work out what to do.
But Jones dismissed this saying, “We played in worse conditions in Fiji two years ago. In the end you have to go with the officials’ decision, but if the game is abandoned then it shouldn’t be a draw that is put in its place. It’s crazy and I can’t see how they can justify it.”