RUGBY JERSEY~Japan Rugby Test Match 2022~Japan SAKURA 15  VS Ireland Women XV~ Round 1

(Author: Azul, August 26, 2022)

On August 20, 2022, the Japanese women’s national rugby team: SAKURA 15 played their third test match of the summer against the Irish women’s national team. The previous test match against the South African Women’s National Team resulted in a win and a loss, but what will happen in the match against the Irish Women’s National Team?

The venue this time was the Ecopa Stadium in Fukuroi City, Shizuoka Prefecture. On this day, too, the match will start at 19:00, which is a night time event. If the game starts at 19:00, the game will end at 22:00, so it will be difficult to catch a train back home. During the RWC, many international supporters had to arrange accommodations in Shizuoka Prefecture to be able to watch the games with peace of mind. This is something that needs to be improved in the future.

This time, I drove my car from my home in Hachioji City to the stadium. The one-way trip was 210 km, and it took me 3.5 hours on the highway.

On a side note, I found an unusual information board at an expressway SA in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The picture above is a guide to what to do in case of an accident at a nuclear power plant. The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station is located in Shizuoka Prefecture. The sign warns of the consequences in the event of a major Tokai earthquake, which is expected to occur in the near future, causing a radiation leak at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station. The national and local governments are preparing to respond to the situation, but it is a bit scary.

I left home at 14:00 and arrived at the ECOPA stadium at 17:45.

The good thing about the Ecopa stadium is that there are many parking lots and the fee is free. The Kumagaya Rugby Stadium charged 3,000 yen for 3 hours, which is as expensive as a first-class parking lot in the city center, but I think it is a little too expensive.

For rugby fans around the world, this stadium is famous for “SHIZUOKA SHOCK”. This is the stadium where the Irish national team, ranked second in the world, suffered an upset loss to the Japanese national team in the RWC 2019.

The statue in the photo above was made to commemorate the match. This time, the women’s national teams of both countries were to play each other in the same stadium.

I arrived at the stadium at almost 6 p.m., but it was still early evening.

The seating capacity of the ECOPA Stadium is 45,000. What kind of game will they play?

Let me introduce the two teams playing today.

First, let me introduce the visiting team, the Women’s Ireland National Team.

As of August 21, the Irish national team is ranked 7th in the world. Unfortunately, they will not be able to participate in the Women’s RWC this fall, as they were defeated in the European qualifying round.

This day’s starting lineup were as follows.

No.NameheightweightageIreland Caps
1 Linda Djougang168cm86kg2622
2Neve Jones157cm70kg2511
3Katie O’Dwyer170cm87kg3110
4Nichola Fryday175cm87kg2727
5Sam Monaghan183cm88kg299
6Dorothy Wall175cm82kg2215
7Edel McMahon163cm72kg2819
8 Hannah O’Connor175m81kg3212
9Ailsa Hughes163m68kg3114
10Dannah O’Brien168cm71kg180
11Aoife Doyle163cm64kg2710
12Enya Breen173cm80kg2314
13Aoife Dalton157cm65kg190
14Natasja Behan170cm71kg220
15Méabh Deely164cm67kg220

This year’s team was basically made up of members with an eye on the RWC to be held in four years. Four of the starters would be making their first caps. This was a team that encourages young members to gain experience and grow. If the Japanese national team, which will be competing against a superior team, will be able to take advantage of this, it will be in this area.

** Players to watch **

Dannah O’Brien is 18 years old, 168 cm, 68 kg. At 18 years of age, she is a promising young player who will play a key role as a game-maker for the Irish national team. Her calm play and accurate place kicking, which belies her age, led to her selection for this year’s tournament.

Next, I would like to introduce the home team, the Japanese women’s national team, SAKURA 15.

This is their third test match this summer, and they will play a match against a superior team, the Irish national team. Unlike the previous years, the team was able to organize four strengthening matches in Japan just before the RWC, which is a big step forward for the strengthening system. Rugby is a sport in which Giant Killing is not likely to occur, and this test match is expected to be a tough one. The test matches on this day are expected to be tough. We hope that this strengthening match will be a step forward, and we look forward to a good fight in the RWC.

Today’s starting members are as follows

No.NameheightweightageJapan Caps
1Saki MINAMI163cm70kg2623
2Nijiho NAGATA162cm79kg216
3Yuka SADAKA167cm91kg2710
4Kie TAMAI168cm78kg2911
5Maki TAKANO170cm77kg2714
6Misaki Suzuki164cm66kg3029
7Kyoko HOSOKAWA164cm70kg235
8Ayano NAGAI168cm84kg218
9Moe TSUKUI153cm53kg2217
10Ayasa OTSUKA163cm63kg237
11Komachi IMAKUGI158cm62kg207
12Sione NAKAYAMA166cm70kg235
13Rinka MATSUDA170cm75kg203
14Riho KUROKI165cm65kg2411
15Ria ANOKU160cm60kg256

** Players to watch **

Rinka MATSUDA. 170cm, 75kg, 20 years old. Although she is only 20 years old, she is a mainstay of the Japan national team with excellent running, defensive, and breakthrough ability. Her hard tackling as a last-resort FB shown in the first test match made a strong impression on the rugby people. She did a number of jobs to finish off opponents who were rushing forward at an accelerated pace with a single shot by herself alone. Her father, Tsutomu Matsuda, was a famous player who participated in three RWCs. We look forward to her future development as a representative player of Japan.

Now, here is my report on this match.

Despite the large stadium, the Ecopa Stadium, the attendance on the day of the match was a bit sad, with only about 1,000 spectators. The start time of the game and the surrounding accommodations need to be improved. If this were a professional team’s game, the venue rental fee would have exceeded the admission fee revenue by a large margin.

So, let the match begin.

I thought that SAKURA 15 would be pushed from the beginning of the match against the Irish team, which is a higher ranked team, but the first team to take the lead was SAKURA 15.

3 minutes into the first half

As you can see from the list of starters, the Irish national team was a bit taller than Japan in both average height and weight of FWs. Knowing this, after the kickoff, the FWs attempted a power breakthrough. However, SAKURA 15 connected the ball well and gradually made progress in the enemy’s territory. From a penalty by the opponent, SAKURA 15 got into a tight battle in front of the goal post in the enemy camp, and finally flanker Suzuki scored a try just below the goal post. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the score was 7-0. SAKURA 15 was able to take the lead.

5 minutes in the first half:

From the kick-off after the try, the Irish national team attacked into the Japanese camp, but were repeatedly fouled at important points and pushed back to the center line area. From there, SAKURA 15 caught the ball in the lineout, and spread it to the left. No.8 Nagai cut inside and made a big step forward. The ball was passed to CTB Matsuda, then to WTB Imakugi, who then made a great run to the in-goal. Imakugi scored a neat try in the left center of the in-goal. After the try, the conversion goal failed. The score was 12-0 and SAKURA 15 extended their lead.

11 minutes into the first half:

SAKURA 15 was pushed a little in set plays at scrums and lineouts. However, when they were able to get their own ball as a result, SAKURA 15’s attack connected and they were able to make a big gain. The ball was connected in a tight battle just inside the enemy territory, and again SAKURA 15 advanced into the Irish territory, right up to the goal posts. At this point, the Irish team committed an infringement, and SAKURA 15 selected PG. The SO Otsuka of SAKURA 15 scored to make the score 15-0.

17 minutes into the first half

The Irish national team, hoping to recover from their poor start, got deep into Japan’s territory and won the ball from a lineout on their own. The Irish team managed to get deep into Japan’s territory, and after winning the ball from a lineout on their own line, they formed a maul to push forward, then scored a try. The SO O’Brien scored the conversion goal after the try to make the score 15-7.

22 minutes into the first half.

Around this time, the Irish national team began to gradually increase their attack as their set pieces became more consistent. From a scrum on their own ball in the opposition territory, the Irish team’s inside CTB Dalton dummied outside CTB Breen as a dummy and cut to the outside. She then connected with FB Deely who joined the line, and finally WTB Doyle received the ball and scored a try at the left edge of the enemy’s in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed.

The score was 15-12.

30 minutes into the first half.

Here was a bit of a surprise. The Irish team had just entered the enemy territory, almost at the halfway mark, when they were fouled by their opponents. The Irish team opted to go for the PG. The distance was about 45 meters. Even the men’s national team players were not sure if they would be able to get in at this distance, but No. 8 O’Connor attempted it.

The result was a miss, but she almost made it. The power of the Irish team was astonishing.

41 minutes into the first half:

After the horn sounded for the last play, Ireland went on the offensive. The Irish team moved in on the opposition’s in-goal, where they attacked with a series of attacks using their strong front line players. In the end, the Irish team deployed to the right from a tight group, and CTB Dalton broke through the opposition’s  defense and scored a try right in the middle of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-19, and the Irish national team succeeded in making a comeback.

Looking back at the first half, SAKURA 15 dominated until the 11th minute. Since the Irish national team had a team composition including many players in their first cap, I thought it would be an easy win for SAKURA 15, or so I I thought it would be an easy win for SAKURA 15. However, from then on, the Irish national team dominated the game from start to finish, and SAKURA 15 was almost on the defensive. Can SAKURA 15 turn the tide in the second half?

Let’s start the second half.

2 minutes into the second half

SAKURA 15 wanted to break the bad trend that had continued from the first half, but it was the Irish team again that scored the first score.

The game started with a kickoff by the Irish team, and Japan committed a foul in the first corner. The Irish team won the ball in their own lineout, and again formed a maul to push forward and score an easy try. The try was scored by Irish hooker Jones, her second of the day. The conversion attempt after the try failed, making the score 15-24.

13 minutes into the second half.

The Irish national team had a scrum in the enemy territory, and drew an infringement from SAKURA 15. From there, the Irish team opted for a penalty kick, which resulted in a lineout for their own ball. SAKURA 15 was then left helpless against the Irish team, and a maul led to a try. The try was scored by hooker Jones, her third try of the day. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-31.

On this day, the Irish national team created a scoring pattern of penalty, lineout, maul, and try in enemy territory, which SAKURA 15 could do nothing about. SAKURA 15 was in a vicious circle.

17 minutes into the second half:

SAKURA 15 wanted to increase their attacking time, as their attack was working well on this day, but they were behind at every set play. However, they were unable to win the ball as they were behind at every set-piece.

In contrast, Ireland’s national team was able to get on the board from a BK attack near the halfway mark, with FB Deely, with perfect timing, joined the attack and ran in on her own, scoring a try in the middle left of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 15-38.

This Irish try was almost the same signature play as the 23rd minute play in the first half, so I wanted SAKURA 15 to respond! The score was 15-38 in the second half.

22 minutes into the second half:

 SAKURA 15 finally got the ball and made a series of attacks.

At this time, SAKURA 15 finally secured the ball and made a series of attacks. SAKURA 15’s rhythm of attack was created by the SH Abe, who came in as a substitute, and they gradually advanced. SAKURA 15 induced an infringement by the opponent in front of the goal post in the enemy’s territory, and from there the SH Abe quickly propelled the ball forward. The SH Abe quickly connected the ball to prop Lavemai. She rushed into the in-goal and scored a try. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 22-38.

29 minutes into the second half

SAKURA 15 was holding their own ball in their own territory and attacking continuously. When the So of SAKURA 15 tried to kick the ball out of the pack, The ball bounced out of the pack and was charged down by lock Monaghan of the Irish national team and the prop Pierce of the Irish national team scored a try in the left in-goal. The conversion goal failed after the try. The score was 22-43.

32 minutes into the second half.

The Irish national team was able to get a little further into the enemy territory and formed a tight group from which the WTB McCabe took the ball out and scored a try in the in-goal in the middle of the right field. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 22-50.

39 minutes into the second half.

The Irish national team took a big lead with a big score and kept their concentration even in the final minutes of the match. The Irish national team entered the enemy territory, approached the opponent’s in-goal through fouls, etc., and repeated a series of attacks by the FWs in a dense area. In the end, Ireland’s hooker Hooban scored a try in the middle right of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, and the final score was 22-57. The Irish national team won their first test match.

The SAKURA 15 team had a tough time, but they will be looking forward to the second test match on August 27th, and hope to make the most of the lessons learned from this match to get back on track. The night game at the Ecopa Stadium was also a tough one for the SAKURA 15 team.

After the night game at the Ecopa Stadium, I headed back home, leaving at 21:30 and arriving home at 25:30. I was caught in a late-night construction traffic jam on the way home, which was a bit of a miscalculation. But for a game like this one, I think it would be more exciting to stay at a local hotel and discuss the game with my friends.

** Jersey Collection 63 **

Replica of France national rugby team 2nd jersey. Made by adidas. Sold for 5,900 yen on Yahoo! Auctions. I had a jersey of almost similar design, but the color of the FFR patch on the chest was different, so I bought it without hesitation. Whenever I see a jersey from the days when Sergiye Blanco, a player I admire, was wearing it, I want to have it.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine


RUGBY JERSEY ~ Japan Rugby Test Match 2022 ~ Japan SAKURA 15 VS South Africa Springbok Women~ Round 2

(Author: Azul, July 31, 2022)

The Japan men’s national rugby team finished its season with a test match against France in July. Just when we thought we would not be able to see any rugby matches in Japan for a while. However, Japan Women’s National Rugby Team has scheduled 4 test matches in July and August. The schedule is as follows

July 24: Japan vs South Africa (Kamaishi, Iwate)

July 30: Japan vs. South Africa (Kumagaya, Saitama)

Aug. 20: Japan vs Ireland (Fukuroi, Shizuoka)

Aug. 27: Japan vs Ireland (Minato-ku, Tokyo)

Unfortunately, I could not go to the first match on July 24 because of my work schedule.

Then, I went to Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture, to watch the second match on 7/30: Japan Women’s National Team; SAKURA 15 vs South Africa Women’s National Team; Springbok Women.

Since the new corona outbreak is currently underway in Japan, it was dangerous to go there by train, so I drove from my home. The distance from Hachioji City to Kumagaya City was 77 km. The one-way trip took about 90 minutes because the roads were a bit congested.

Kumagaya City is a town that competes for the highest summer temperature in Japan. On this particular day, it was a scorching 36 degrees Celsius. Rugby is normally played in the fall and winter, so in consideration of the health of the players, the kickoff time was 17:45 on this day.

Here, I have compiled the necessary information for watching women’s rugby.

First, here are the current world rankings by country. Please refer to the table below.

World Ranking2022.7.17
2New Zealand
13South Africa

 Japan, the team playing today, is ranked 12th. South Africa, our opponent, is ranked 13th. (Incidentally, Ireland, the team Japan will play in August, is ranked No. 7. The rankings are quite different from the men’s team. The South African men’s team was the RWC 2019 world champion).

Next are the preliminary league pairings for the Women’s RWC, which will be held this October.

  Pool ARanking
  New Zealand  2
  Australia  5
  Wales  9
  Scotland  11
  Pool BRanking
  Canada  3
  USA  6
  Italia  7
  Japan  12
  Pool CRanking
  England  1
  France  4
  South Africa  13
  Fiji  21

The Japanese women’s national team, SAKURA 15, will play in Qualifying Pool B. All of the teams are ranked higher than Japan in the world rankings. SAKURA 15’s goal is to advance to the final tournament. Good luck, Japan national team!

Now, let’s continue with the spectator’s report.

We left Hachioji at 14:30 and arrived at Kumagaya City around 16:00. It took me a long time to find a parking lot there. The parking lot near the stadium had an advance ticket system and charged 1,800 yen for three hours, so we parked our car at the parking lot in front of the station. Here, the parking fee was 450 yen for three hours. From there I walked to the stadium. It took about 30 minutes.

This was only my second visit to Kumagaya Rugby Stadium. The last time I saw a game at Kumagaya was in 2019. I was surprised to see how much has changed around the stadium since then. This year’s League One champion, the Panasonic Wild Knights, have franchised the Kumagaya Rugby Ground, so the team’s grounds, various club facilities, and even a hotel are located right next to the ground.

The photo above shows the Wild Knights’ medical facilities.

The photo above is the team’s training ground and clubhouse, although it is a little confusing.

These various facilities are concentrated within 200 meters of the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium. Next time I come to Kumagaya to watch a game, I would like to stay here. The facilities are excellent, and I can see why the Wild Knights are so strong.

Now, let me introduce both teams that will play today.

First up is the Visitor Team, the women’s South African women’s national team.

Speaking of South African rugby, the men’s national team is the strongest team in the world, competing for the current No. 1 world ranking, but the South African women’s national team is a very young team with a short history, having been formed in 2004. Currently ranked 13th in the world, the South African women’s national team is almost on the same level as the Japanese national team. However, their style of play differs from that of the Japanese national team in that they are aggressive and physical. Like the men’s team, they play a physical game, but their physique is not as overwhelming as that of the men’s team. This is reflected in their current world ranking.

Today’s starting members are as follows.

Springbok Women
No.NameheightweightageSouth Africa Caps
1Asithandile Ntoyanto176cm115kg319
2Lindelwa Gwala163cm79kg2515
3Babalwa Latsha175cm95kg2714
4 Nolusindiso Booi171cm80kg3628
5Rights Mkhari176cm72kg276
6Lusanda Dumke156cm68kg2519
7Sinazo Mcatshulwa177cm76kg2413
8Sizophila Solontsi160m72kg2910
9Tayla Kinsey164m65kg2820
10 Libbie Janse van Rensburg178cm72kg277
11Ayanda Malinga167cm66kg236
12Aphiwe Ngwevu167cm86kg2310
13 Zintle Mpupha161cm72kg2912
14Simamkele Namba152cm62kg233
15Nadine Roos164cm62kg250

**  Players to watch  **

Libbie Janse van Rensburg. 178 cm, 72 kg, 27 years old. Position is SO. She is the tallest player in this test match, but she is the mainstay of the team, kicking well, running well, and judging situations well. Her kicking accuracy and distance, including PG, are as good as those of Japanese high school boys.

Next, I would like to introduce our home team, the Japanese women’s national team, SAKURA 15.

** History of Women’s Rugby in Japan **

1983: Japan’s first women’s rugby team was born (Setagaya Ladies)

1988: Japan Women’s Rugby Football Union was established.

Women’s RWC appearances: 1991, 1995, 2002, 2017, 2022 (scheduled)

Women’s rugby has attracted domestic interest since seven-a-side rugby was adopted as an official sport at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. This year, the women’s team once again attracted attention after a tour of Australia, where they defeated the Australian women’s national team, ranked No. 8 in the world. The team is expected to play well at the Women’s RWC to be held in October this year.

Today’s starting members are as follows

No.NameheightweightageJapan Caps
1Makoto LAVEMAI163cm70kg2514
2Nijiho NAGATA162cm79kg215
3Yuka SADAKA167cm91kg279
4Kie TAMAI168cm78kg2910
5Masami KAWAMURA173cm70kg231
6Seina SAITO164cm72kg3028
7Iroha Nagata167cm70kg2313
8Mateitoga Bogidraumainadabe170cm96kg3813
9Megumi ABE147cm53kg247
10Ayasa OTSUKA163cm63kg236
11Riho KUROKI165cm65kg2410
12Minori YAMAMOTO168cm63kg2518
13Mana FURUTA167cm69kg2412
14Hinano NAKURA170cm75kg258
15Ria Anoku160cm60kg255

**  Players to watch **

Megumi ABE. 147 cm, 53 kg, 24 years old. Caps for Japan = 7caps. Position is SH. The player on the right in the photo above is ABE. She belongs to the Arukas Queen club at Kumagaya. Her speed in grabbing the ball out of a tight pack and continuously developing it makes it hard to feel that she is a female player. In addition, she is strong enough to tackle hard and pull down a large FW player who tries to break through on the side. If she can use her box kick better, she could be a perfect player, and if she gains experience in RWC rugby, I think she will be called upon by foreign teams.

In this first test match, it was a close game, but the Japanese national team emerged victorious with a score of 15-6.

Let’s follow the match.

The match started at 17:45. As the world ranking shows, there is little difference in the ability of these two teams. How will they reflect the lessons learned from the first test match on this day?

5 minutes into the first half:.

The match started with the kick-off by SAKURA 15. The ball from the kickoff was knocked on by SO Rensburg of Springbok Women. SAKURA 15 got their own scrum deep in the enemy territory. From there, SAKURA 15 attacked continuously, mainly with their FWs, and SAKURA 15 attacked in succession, centering on the FWs, and came very close to the goal line. In the end, SAKURA 15’s SO Otsuka scored a try in the left side of the field after a dense battle. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 5-0.

24 minutes in the first half

Up until this point, SAKURA 15 had been able to keep the game almost entirely within their enemy’s territory. Springbok Women attacked and kicked the ball deep into their own territory. SAKURA 15 then made a counter attack. SAKURA 15 passed the ball from WTB to hooker Nagata, who ran through the left side of their own 10m line and advanced to the enemy’s 22m line. There, she passed to SO Otsuka, who knocked on. SAKURA 15 missed a great try opportunity.

The photo above is Nagata, the hooker who ran hard.

32 minutes in the first half:

From near halfway, Springbok Women’s SO Rensburg made a run play, got behind the enemy defense, made a big gain, and passed to WTB Malinga who ran up the left side of the field. Malinga got the ball free and ran in for a try, scoring just under the goal posts. The conversion goal after the try was also successful, making the score 5-7 in favor of Springbok Women.

34 minutes in the first half:

After the try, SAKURA 15 kicked off the ball, Springbok Women took the ball to the right, and when it passed to WTB Malinga running on the left edge, she took a handoff off the marked defender and ran through for a try in the left center. It was the second try of the day. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 5-12.

The first half ended with the score at 5-12, and SAKURA 15 was disappointed to score only one try and miss a chance to score a decisive try, even though they were in the enemy’s territory throughout the game.

The Springbok Women were able to connect in the final minutes of the first half, scoring back-to-back tries. The team hoped to carry this momentum into the second half.

And so the second half began. The time was almost 19:00, and it was now completely a Night Game.

As for SAKURA 15, they did not want to let the score get separate, so they put up a defensive struggle. In response, Springbok Women tried to break through around the FW and at CTB. SAKURA 15 responded with a thicker defense around the FW. The score did not move very much.

19 minutes into the second half:

Springbok Women attacked into the enemy territory, and SAKURA 15 was fouled in front of the goal near the 22-meter line. Springbok Women chose to go for the PG. The SO Rensburg converted the PG to make the score 5-15.

25 minutes into the second half

The WTB of SAKURA 15 Nakura, 170 cm, 75 kg, is a BK player with outstanding running and breaking ability, but unfortunately, the ball did not roll very well on this day.

When SAKURA 15 went deep into the enemy territory, they launched a series of attacks, and when they moved to the right, they were succeeded to be with a few extra players. Nakura received the ball at the end and tried to score in-goal at the right corner, but was pushed out by the opponent’s defense.

SAKURA 15 missed two great try opportunities on this day.

Second half, 34 minutes into the second half:

SAKURA 15 was successful in advancing the game in the enemy’s territory from start to finish, but they missed many crucial scoring chances. In this period, too, SAKURA 15 was attacking in the enemy’s territory when the ball was passed to Springbok Women, who counter-attacked. Springbok Women’s FB Roos, who joined the attack midway through the half, received the ball at top speed on a slant, slipped behind the enemy defensive line, and made a great gain. She then connected with WTB Malinga who scored a try in the right corner of the in-goal. The conversion goal after the try failed. The score was 5-20, giving Springbok Women a big lead.

40 minutes in the second half

With only a few minutes left in the match, already Springbok Women’s victory was assured, but SAKURA 15 attacked in succession to score a final try. After a run play and an infringement by their opponents, SAKURA 15 came close to the goal line and finally, FL Saito scored a try in the middle of the left field of in-goal area. The conversion goal after the try failed. The final score was 10-20. Springbok Women won the match. In total, Springbok Women won one game and lost one test match.

SAKURA 15’s next match is against the Irish women’s national team on August 20. We are looking forward to this match against the 7th ranked team in the world.


Stop the war.

Peace to Ukraine