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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Japan Squad Completes WRWC 2017 Line-Up

Japan Squad Completes WRWC 2017 Line-Up

The 12th and final squad has been announced for the upcoming Women’s Rugby World Cup, with Japan head coach Goshi Arimizu backing his young players to shine against hosts Ireland, Australia and France in Pool C.

Six teenagers have made the Japanese selection, including 17-year-old high school scrum half Moe Tsukui who was only a toddler when Japan last competed in a Women’s Rugby World Cup back in 2002. Fellow backs Riho Kurogi, Mayu Shimuzu, Yumeno Noda (all 19) and Iroha Nagata (18) are the other teens in the 28-woman panel, along with flanker Yui Shiozaki (19).

The Sakura 15s are the reigning Asian Women’s champions after retaining their title this month thanks to two comprehensive wins over Hong Kong – 58-0 and 60-19 – during which talented centre/winger Kurogi touched down four times. They have risen to 14th in the World Rugby Rankings on the back of an unbeaten run in their home continent.

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Goshi Arimizu’s charges gained valuable experience of the WRWC 2017 venue and match conditions when they played Ireland in two trial matches in June, running the home side close on both occasions and scoring seven tries in the process. They also hammered a young Wales side 52-10 at Ystrad Mynach last month.

Fijian-born number 8 Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave (pictured below) is a bustling ball carrier for Japan, notably being the squad’s heaviest and oldest player at 93kg and 33 years of age respectively. Affectionately known as ‘Laite’, she is also one of the tallest at 169cm and has experience of playing in the World Sevens Series, as well as the Women’s Sevens Dublin tournament which Japan won at the UCD Bowl two years ago.

Pearls front rower Seina Saito will captain Japan for their fourth World Cup as they look to become the highest-placed Asian team in tournament history. The 1994 Japanese side finished eighth overall, so Saito and her inexperienced team-mates will be aiming to match or better that come August 26.

Saito commented: “We’ve worked around the theme of making up for our difference in physiques compared to overseas players. My focus is on my physique and I have gained 10 kilograms. In terms of the forwards, against those players with twice our physical strength, we will not be able to get the ball if we cannot get the set piece right.

“It’s a very competitive pool (for the World Cup). The Irish team, being the home team, seems to be the strongest to me in this pool. It will be very tough but we would still like to win. I’m looking forward to it. Our team name is ‘Sakura 15’ – I would like the fans to shout ‘Sakura 15’!”

Keiko Asami, who played at the 2002 WRWC and is now Japan’s skills coach, said: “We’ve done a lot of technical training and video analysis. I’m also working with the team to analysis the Irish, French and Australian teams. The hosts, Ireland, seem to be gaining a lot of attention.

“It would be a great occasion if the Japan team from Asia wins there. It would be a great opportunity for the Japan team to gain media exposure. I would like the team to achieve results and become better known. We’ve not played in a World Cup since 2002, so the desire to be there, to play and win is very strong and I think this is the strength of the team.

“I think the senior players are proud of what the younger players are achieving now. It is fantastic they have been able to regain World Cup status for Japan Women’s rugby. We all have great expectations for them.”

WRWC 2017 Fixtures:

Pool C –

France v Japan, Billings Park, UCD, 7.45pm, Wednesday, August 9
Ireland v Japan, UCD Bowl, 5.15pm, Sunday, August 13
Australia v Japan, Billings Park, UCD, 5pm, Thursday, August 17

For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com.Buy your match tickets for #WRWC2017 now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.

JAPAN WRWC 2017 Squad – Backs (12): Keiko Kato (Setagaya Ladies), Riho Kurogi (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Mayu Shimizu (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Ai Tasaka (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Moe Tsukui (The Second HS, Tokyo University of Agriculture), Honoka Tsutsumi (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Makiko Tomita (Setagaya Ladies), Iroha Nagata (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Yumeno Noda (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Eriko Hirano (Yokohama TKM), Wasana Fukushima (Otemon Gakuin Univ), Minori Yamamoto (Nippon Sport Science Univ).

Forwards (16): Makoto Ebuchi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ/Tokyo Phoenix RC), Mizuho Kataoka (Yokohama TKM), Seina Saito (Pearls) (capt), Ayano Sakurai (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Yui Shiozaki (Tokyo Phoenix RC), Yuki Sue (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Ayaka Suzuki (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Sayaka Suzuki (RKU Rugby Ryugasaki Grace), Misaki Suzuki (Tokyo Phoenix RC), Maki Takano (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Aya Nakajima (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Ai Hyugaji (Tokyo Phoenix RC), Maiko Fujimoto (Yokohama TKM), Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave (Arukas Queen Kumagaya), Saki Minami (Nippon Sport Science Univ), Aoi Mimura (Yokohama TKM).