Could Lesley McKenzie’s squad be the surprise package in New Zealand?
Japan Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad 2022
This will be the fifth time Japan have participated in the women’s Rugby World Cup, but they have not enjoyed much success at the tournament.
They have won only one pool game, beating Sweden 10-5 in 1994, and have never finished higher than eighth. However, they head to New Zealand on the back of some impressive form.
The Asia Championship, which involves Hong Kong, Japan and Kazakhstan, was due to act as the Asia qualifier for this World Cup. However, it was postponed several times due to Covid, so last October World Rugby ruled that Japan would qualify as “the highest-ranked team in the region”.
They have enjoyed a decent build-up to the tournament. They beat Australia and Fiji in May, then drew series against South Africa and Ireland. They will certainly have taken confidence from the win over the Irish, a team ranked significantly higher, and are capable of springing a surprise in Pool B.
Lesley McKenzie – the only female head coach at the tournament and a former Canada hooker – has ensured the squad are well-drilled since taking charge in 2019, and they could beat Italy and/or USA to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
They complete their build-up with a first-ever Test against New Zealand at Eden Park – part of a double-header with the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship match against Australia.
Japan Women’s Rugby World Cup Squad 2022
Japan’s 32-player squad contains 19 forwards and 13 backs, with prop Saki Minami as captain.
“A goal of mine when I began coaching Japan was to have a challenging selection process for this World Cup,” said coach Lesley McKenzie. “It was my intention to be confronted by difficult choices in most, if not all positions.
“That was about growing our squad, growing the number of players we could pick from and growing them physically in terms of their capacity to play the game at a higher, more physical level. I’m really pleased with where we’re at. It’s not perfect, but I am very excited by the level of performance this team is now capable of.
“We’ve crafted the team with the expectation that everyone puts in all they can towards one group effort. There will be individuals that have breakout performances in the tournament, and I think for us, we will see a breakout in terms of the rest of the world beginning to appreciate the strength of Japanese rugby.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing performances from the team that make the rugby world stand up and take notice of what this team can do.”
Megumi Abe (28 Apr 1998/Arukas Queen Kumagaya/Scrum-half/10)
Ria Anoku (2 Oct 1996/Mie Pearls/Full-back/7)
Mana Furuta (16 Nov 1997/Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix/Centre/14)
Ai Hirayama (7 May 1992/JSDF/Full-back/4)
Komachi Imakugi (6 Jan 2002/Arukas Queen Kumagaya/Fly-half/9)
Yuki Ito (24 Oct 1996/Mie Pearls/Wing/11)
Rinka Matsuda (5 Dec 2001/Nippon Sports Science University/Wing/5)
Hinano Nagura (22 Mar 1997/Yokogawa/Wing/10)
Shione Nakayama (18 Jan 1999/Yokogawa/Centre/7)
Ayasa Otsuka (5 May 1999/RKU/Fly-half/9)
Ayaka Suzuki (30 Sep 1989/Arukas Queen Kumagaya/Centre/18)
Moe Tsukui (28 Mar 2000/Yokogawa/Scrum-half/19)
Minori Yamamoto (9 Dec 1996/Mie Pearls/Centre/21)
Kyoko Hosokawa (8 Jul 1999/Mie Pearls/Back-row/7)
Sachiko Kato (19 Feb 2000/Exeter Chiefs/Prop/10)
Masami Kawamura (13 Jul 1999/RKU/Lock/3)
Wako Kitano (8 Sep 1999/Mie Pearls/Prop/6)
Hinata Komaki (9 May 2001/Nippon Sports Science University/Prop/3)
Sakurako Korai (9 Apr 2003/Nippon Sports Science University/Back-row/2)
Makoto Lavemai (2 Jul 1997/Yokogawa/Prop/17)
Saki Minami (18 Nov 1995/Yokogawa/Prop/25)
Ayano Nagai (14 Oct 1997/Yokohama TKM/Back-row/10)
Iroha Nagata (21 Dec 1998/Arukas Queen Kumagaya/Back-row/15)
Nijiho Nagata (6 Dec 2000/International Budo University/Hooker/8)
Yuka Sadaka (2 Nov 1994/Hirosaki Sakura Ovals/Prop/12)
Seina Saito (30 May 1992/Mie Pearls/Back-row/31)
Yuna Sato (11 Sep 1998/Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix/Lock/6)
Misaki Suzuki (9 Apr 1992/Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix/Back-row/30)
Maki Takano (17 Aug 1995/Yokogawa/Lock/16)
Kie Tamai (24 Oct 1992/Mie Pearls/Lock/13)
Kotomi Taniguchi (10 Apr 1995/Mie Pearls/Hooker/3)
Otoka Yoshimura (15 May 2001/Arukas Queen Kumagaya/Lock/5)
Japan Women’s Rugby World Cup Fixtures 2022
(All kick-off times are UK & Ireland time)
Sun 9 Oct, Japan v Canada (3.15am, Northland Events Centre, Whangarei)
Sat 15 Oct, USA v Japan (5.30am, Northland Events Centre, Whangarei)
Sun 23 Oct, Japan v Italy (0.45am, Waitakere Stadium, Auckland)
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