Sakura Fifteen Team to Play Italy in Final RWC Pool Match

Japan Head Coach Lesley McKenzie has today named the Sakura Fifteen team for their third and final Rugby World Cup Pool B match against Italy, at Waitakere Stadium in Auckland. Kicking off at 12:45 New Zealand local time, 08:45 Japan Standard Time on Sunday, October 23, the Sakura Fifteen will be looking to finish their World Cup campaign on a high note following successive losses to Canada and the USA in their opening two pool matches.

Japan will field the same run-on side that played last Saturday against the USA, with the only change being in the backrow, where Kyoko Hosokawa moves from openside to blindside, as a direct swap with Iroha Nagata, who will start this week at openside.

The Sakura Fifteen will be led once again from the front row, with Captain Saki Minami at loose head and the impressive Sachiko Kato packing down at tight head. They will be joined by Kotomi Taniguchi who retains her position as starting hooker, while in the locks, the solid combination of Yuna Sato and Maki Takano will once again pack down in the second row. The backrow is rounded off by the formidable Seina Saito, Japan’s most capped player, who will anchor the scrum at number eight in her 35th test cap.

In the backs, Japan’s impressive halves pairing continues, with livewire scrumhalf Megumi Abe, who scored a try against the USA and the lively Ayasa Otsuka at flyhalf. Minori Yamamoto and Mana Furuta start again at inside and outside centre respectively, while last week’s try scoring outside backs, left wing Komachi Imakugi and right wing Hinano Nagura are joined by the ever-impressive Rinka Matsuda at fullback.

On the reserves bench, Hinata Komaki, Ria Anoku, Otoka Yoshimura and Moe Tsukui all retain their positions as replacements, while Makoto Lavemai and Shione Nakayama return to the team after having played in the first pool match against Canada.  Masami Kawmura and Sakurako Korai move into the matchday 23 for the first time in the tournament.

Sakura Fifteen Head Coach, Lesley McKenzie commented:

“It’s going to be an entertaining and fascinating game against Italy. They have a similar playing style and attributes to us. Historically they’re a little undersized within the Six Nations and they draw from a small player pool, but they’ve got a lot of really strong characters with excellent Six Nations experience. They bring some really able athletes, good ball players and they’re a team that is very passionate. We expect them to go for the full 80 minutes and we’re anticipating a really good matchup.”

Sunday’s match will be telecast live in Japan from 08:30 JST via JSports One and will be available live and via catch-up on JSports On-demand.