Lesley McKenzie to Continue as Sakura Fifteen Head Coach into 2024

The Japan Rugby Football Union is delighted to announce that it has renewed the contract of Lesley McKenzie, the Head Coach of the Sakura Fifteen until March 31, 2024. Having coached Japan’s national team since 2019, McKenzie, who was capped 25 times for her native Canada, will continue to lead a Sakura Fifteen team that has made tremendous progress during her time as Head Coach.

Commenting on the news, National Team Director Yoshiyuki Miyazaki said:

“Lesley McKenzie has worked incredibly hard to strengthen the women’s game in Japan since taking over as head coach of the Sakura Fifteen and has brought the national team to a level where they can compete with the best in the world. In 2023, women’s international rugby will enter an exciting new phase with the introduction of WXV* in which national teams will compete in test matches played in an annual tournament format. This new competition will give us a development platform to help us attain our goal of reaching the final eight at Rugby World Cup 2025. The continued incorporation of Lesley’s passion and professionalism will be vital for Japan to maintain its growth trajectory and continue achieving a world-beating standard.”

Sakura Fifteen Head Coach, Lesley McKenzie added:

“I’m delighted at this renewed opportunity to serve as the head coach of Sakura Fifteen. I love this team and these athletes. Wins over Australia and at home in Tokyo over Ireland were real highlights for me, but so was the time in New Zealand; we learned so much that will push us farther. We have a program still in its adolescence that I know is poised to stretch to higher and higher on the global stage. I’m thrilled to continue the journey and I thank the JRFU for their endorsement and the fans for their staunch support. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!”


Lesley McKenzie