Number two seeds Hong Kong rumbled into Dubai late on Wednesday, charged up to acquit themselves well in this year's edition. They are so keen before their first outing against UAE on Friday night they were out in a huge open sandpit beside the hotel practicing their defence on Thursday morning.
There was yet more training in the evening at the 7s Ground and then into action for the opener. UAE are no strangers to the HK team, they posted some big scores against the Gulfers last year, 62-3 in HK and then 72-14 in Dubai on their way to some silverware at the Cup of Nations in December.
UAE have assured all and sundry that it will be a different story on Friday, they have some more players who have their three year residency status and they will add some starch to the performance. Problem is Hong Kong also have some players who are eligible now and the majority of the tight forwards are new; big giants who been powering the Hong Kong Football Club to glory over the last few seasons.
HK have a look of a team that is about to fulfill their potential, they have more grunt up front, a loose trio that exhibits skill and power and backs who play sevens for long periods of the year and know how to use front foot ball.
Of course every game is a clean slate and Hong Kong will have to work hard for a victory, it was only two years ago they were ambushed by the Arabian Gulf 16-9, but I can sense both HK and Korea will be happy with the squad that new Japan coach Eddie Jones has formulated for this tournament. It's a promising side full of young stars and a couple of gnarled old pros, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the acid comes on.
Even though Korea have been spanked in recent times by Japan, a few times during after matches over the last 5 years the Koreans have challenged the Japanese to a 'native only' match, and this year they will get their chance in Seoul. The Koreans love the physical side of rugby and have the talents, brawn and "inner-anger" to rattle the Brave Blossoms, especially if You Young Nam, the Panasonic Wild Knight can lead from the front.
I will never forget the day when Japan fielded an all-Japanese team against minnows Singapore in 2009. It was the last game of the tournament, Singapore had been smashed from pillar to post for 4 weeks but battled gamely against the champions and lost 45-15, one of the narrowest margins in A5N history.
It was the atmosphere on that day, the lack of certainty that gives me the feeling that it won't be all sushi and sake for the blooming Blossoms. Even at club level, the Japanese have experienced ex-internationals driving their teams, it will be good for some of these players to have more responsibility on their shoulders.
But whether they can respond immediately, that will be one of the interesting issues for this season's tournament. Japan named their team to take on Kazakhstan in Almaty on Saturday, two of the players Hitoshi Ono and Hirotoki Onozawa provide 120 of their combined 200 caps. Maybe they should be wearing green instead of the standard red and white!
What a festival of rugby development we have to look forward to in Dubai on Friday. The all Emirati development squad Shaheen take on Afghanistan, there's the final of the Division 4 of the Asian 5 Nations between Lebanon and Qatar and then the big bash that you can see on STAR Sports at midnight Hong Kong time Friday night, UAE hosting Hong Kong. What better entertainment on a Friday night!