Sakura Fifteen Team Announced for Opening WXV Clash Against Italy

Japan Head Coach Lesley McKenzie has named the Sakura Fifteen team to face Italy in the first match of World Rugby’s new WXV2 tournament, taking place in Cape Town, South Africa between 13 – 28 October. Kicking off at 14:00 local time, 21:00 Japan time on Friday 13, the match will be the second time in two weeks that Japan face Le Azzurre in 2023, following their historic first ever victory over Italy in their WXV warm-up match in Parma on 30 September.

Japan come into this week’s match on the back of a six-match winning streak after having also defeated Fiji in both of their recent home test matches, as well as recording solid victories away to Kazakhstan and Spain. The Sakura Fifteen will be looking to continue this strong run of form and start their WXV campaign in the best possible fashion.

Captained by openside-flanker, Iroha Nagata, this week’s side sees a solid mix of experience combined with a selection of new talent, with nine players in the matchday-23 coming into the match with 10 test caps or less experience.

In the front-row, the experienced duo of Sachiko Kato and Yuka Sadaka will start at loosehead and tighthead respectively, while Asuka Kuge packs down at starting hooker. Hinata Komaki and Nijiho Nagata are the reserves props, and Kotomi Taniguchi will start from the bench as the reserve rake.

In the second-row, Masami Kawamura packs down alongside Otoka Yoshimura, with Jennifer Nduka named on the bench as the reserve lock. Japan will once again field the formidable backrow combination of Seina Saito, the Sakura Fifteen’s most capped player at blindside, Ayano Nagai at number-eight and Captain, Iroha Nagata at number-seven. Sakurako Korai has been named as the reserve back-row forward.

In the halves, Megumi Abe is the starting half-back, while at flyhalf, the impressive Ayasa Otsuka retains the playmaker role at number-10. In the midfield, Kanako Kobayashi starts at inside-centre, with the experienced Mana Furuta at outside-centre. The back-three sees Komachi Imakugi on the left wing, while 18-year-old speedster, Misaki Matsumura covers the right-wing, with Sora Nishimura at fullback. The backline reserves consist of Kotono Yasuo, Mei Yoshimoto and Minori Yamamoto, who plays in the Premier 15s with English side Worcester Warriors.

Commenting on the team announcement, Japan Head Coach Lesley McKenzie said:

“We’ve been in the WXV mindset since we left Japan. We had a really good warm-up game in Italy, with a really strong contest and our first ever test win against them. We knew this second game against Italy would be the first game of WXV, so we’re already well and truly in the mindset, in the process and on the journey.

“We’ve named a slightly different starting line-up this week and expect Italy to do the same. They beat us last year at the World Cup and with the challenge that we’ve issued in Parma, we’re anticipating a really tough game from them.

“WXV is a great format for teams like us that don’t usually get to experience this type of tournament. The Six Nations and North American sides play in tournament formats, but for teams like Japan, Fiji and South Africa, this is massive as it is so much closer to a World Cup format than we’ve ever experienced. For a young, developing programme like ours, it’s really crucial and will be a great experience.”

The match will be telecast live and available on catch-up via JSports On-demand, and delayed telecast will be shown on J SPORTS 4 from 00:30 JST on Saturday, 14 October. The entire WXV tournament will also be available on RugbyPass TV, World Rugby’s new global streaming platform(Restrictions are in place in some regions).

Following their match against Italy, the Sakura Fifteen take on Samoa on Saturday, 21 October, followed by Scotland on Friday, 27 October, with both matches taking place at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town.

Team List:

No.NameTeamSchool/Company heightweigftDOBcaps
1Sachiko KATOYOKOGAWA Musashino Artemi-Stars164892000/2/1919
2Asuka KUGEARUKAS QUEEN KUMAGAYAGoto Hygine Consultant163751994/9/225
3Yuka SADAKAHirosaki sakura ovalsSEINAN Corp.1671001994/11/217
4Masami KAWAMURARKU GRACEMorooka Co.,Ltd.173701999/7/138
5Otoka YOSHIMURAARUKAS QUEEN KUMAGAYA/Rissho Univ.Rissho Univ.174832001/5/1512
6Seina SAITOMIE PEARLSSumitomo Wiring Systems167731992/5/3037
7Iroha NAGATAARUKAS QUEEN KUMAGAYAKanto Foods Co.,Ltd.167701998/12/2124
8Ayano NAGAIYOKOHAMA TKMYokohama Mirai Healthcare System168841997/10/1418
9Megumi ABEARUKAS QUEEN KUMAGAYARDC Co.,Ltd.147531998/4/2817
10Ayasa OTSUKARKU GRACEIBARAKI TOYOPET Co.,Ltd.163631999/5/518
11Komachi IMAKUGIARUKAS QUEEN KUMAGAYA/Rissho Univ.Rissho Univ.158622002/1/617
12Kanako KOBAYASHIYOKOGAWA Musashino Artemi-Stars162701998/11/139
13Mana FURUTATokyo Sankyu PhoenixNTT Facilities Inc.167691997/11/1622
14Misaki MATSUMURATokyo Sankyu PhoenixWaseda Univ.169682005/3/62
15Sora NISHIMURAMIE PEARLSChoko Co.,Ltd.167682000/9/295
16Kotomi TANIGUCHIYOKOGAWA Musashino Artemi-StarsNKS Corp163741995/4/1010
17Hinata KOMAKINippon Sport Science Univ.Nippon Sport Science Univ.166782001/5/911
18Nijiho NAGATA162802000/12/613
19Jennifer NDUKAHokkaido Barbarians DianaMedical System Network165742000/10/182
20Sakurako KORAINippon Sport Science Univ.Nippon Sport Science Univ.168742003/4/96
21Kotono YASUOBRAVE LOUVEToyo Univ.156612001/10/26
22Mei YOSHIMOTOOtemon Univ.Otemon Univ.168652002/3/211
23Minori YAMAMOTOWorcester Warriors Women169701996/12/925