Japan is expected to earn a spot at the Rugby World Cup in France in final qualifying play against host Hong Kong and South Korea with games kicking off Saturday.
The round-robin matches were originally scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka as part of the 12-nation Asian tournament, but the International Rugby Board postponed play over security concerns, then moved the World Cup qualifiers to the Hong Kong Football Club. Japan plays Hong Kong on Saturday, Hong Kong faces South Korea on Tuesday, and South Korea meets Japan on Nov. 25.
Japan, which went winless in the previous World Cup four years ago, is the best ranked of the three teams at No. 19. In World Cup qualifying action in April, Japan beat South Korea 50-14 and crushed the Arabian Gulf 82-9. The Japanese have faced tougher matches in recent warm-ups, losing to Australian Prime Minister's XV 61-19 and the Queensland Reds 29-22 earlier this month.
South Korea is coming off a massive 100-3 win over China at the Macquarie Friendship Cup in Seoul in September, but can expect stiffer competition from stronger Hong Kong and Japanese sides. Hong Kong won two World Cup qualifying matches convincingly in May, defeating China 23-7 and Sri Lanka 45-14.
The winner of group play in Hong Kong will be placed in Pool B at the World Cup alongside Australia, Wales, Fiji and Canada.