Sakura 15s captain Saki Minami wants her side to use Tuesday's historic 12-10 win over Australia at Bond University as a springboard going into Rugby World Cup 2021.
Second-half tries from fly-half Ayasa Otsuka and flanker Kyoko Hosokawa, together with Ayasa Otsuka’s conversion, saw Japan produce their best-ever result four months out from the game’s flagship event.
Having already beaten Fijiana 28-14 on the Gold Coast and Australia Barbarians 24-10 in Brisbane, the result completed a very satisfactory few weeks for the Sakura 15s.
“With this win, we are now standing at a new start line,” said Minami.
“We lost three straight in Europe last time (in November) but got three wins this time here.
“I’ve got a feeling that our standard has risen. We have our base and now we want to build it up higher like a pyramid.
“By winning, a lot more people know about women’s rugby. This win means a lot,” the loose-head prop added.
Amazing match, amazing hosts.— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) May 10, 2022
Thank you, Wallaroos! 🙏🌸 https://t.co/OfQANQJ8Ew
Defence a big focus
A mixture of profligacy in attack and Japan’s refusal to let them in meant that Australia were only able to muster 10 points from two unconverted mauled tries from Ashley Marsters and Adiana Talakai.
It was the first time Japan had beaten a side ranked in the top five of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini and was some turnaround from a 46-3 loss to Australia in their last meeting in July 2019.
Sakura 15s assistant coach, Louise Dalgliesh, was delighted by the resilience shown by the team.
“It’s been a big focus of the team with the work that Lesley (McKenzie, head coach) has done to drive that collective effort. To put that into practice against such strong ball carriers and a strong side and to keep that repeated effort and keep pushing them back was immensely pleasing,” said Dalgliesh.
“It’s also credit to the work the players have been putting in and also the support and expertise of our strength and conditioning team.”
Dalgliesh also echoed Minami’s belief that Japan are heading in the right direction leading into Rugby World Cup 2021, played in 2022.
“For us, it is another step forward as we build towards the World Cup but there is still more to come from this team,” Dalgliesh said.
“It’s not a miracle, it is down to hard work, it is down to the effort and application and the technical detail the players put in and some excellent leadership, from Saki herself and our other leaders on the park.”
For Australia, the result was a setback but head coach Jay Tregonning was not too downhearted given it was only the team’s second test in well over two years.
“It is still a positive effort. There were definitely some execution things we could have done better, tactically we thought we had a good game plan going in but all credit to Japan, their defence was outstanding.
“I think we’re in a position where we have got a lot to build on.”
When the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini are updated at 12 noon on Monday, Australia will drop a place to sixth and Japan will stay 12th.
The Wallaroos are next in action on Monday, 6 June when they take on New Zealand in Tauranga in the Pacific Four Series.