Japan beat Kazakhstan to secure place at England 2025

The Sakura 15s ran in 10 tries at King's Park Sports Ground to claim a sixth Asia Rugby Women's Championship title and qualification for both Women's Rugby World Cup 2025 and WXV 2 2024.

Japan became the eighth team to qualify for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 with a 64-0 victory against Kazakhstan at the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship 2024 in Hong Kong.

The Sakura 15s, who began their title defence by beating hosts Hong Kong China last Wednesday, ran in 10 tries during a dominant performance at King’s Park Sports Ground to claim a sixth Asian crown.

Fly-half Ayasa Otsuka was a standout performer for Japan and ended the match with 19 points, via a try and seven conversions.

It means Japan have booked their tickets to WXV 2 2024 in South Africa and England 2025, joining the Red Roses, New Zealand, France, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and USA in confirming their place at next year’s showpiece tournament.

“We had a good result. Rather than focusing on them, we focused on us and what we’ve been doing,” Japan captain Iroha Nagata said.

“It was [part of the] process to get to the Rugby World Cup and we’ve got to keep working hard to bring the team to a higher level.”

The Asia Rugby Women’s Championship will conclude on Saturday when Hong Kong China take on Kazakhstan (kick-off 18:30 local time, GMT+8).

Whoever wins that match will qualify for WXV 3 in Dubai as runners-up, maintaining their hopes of joining Japan at Women’s RWC 2025.

Japan won last year’s final against Kazakhstan 72-0 and they started this match in similarly bullish fashion, running in two tries in the opening eight minutes.

Loose-head prop Sachiko Kato was the first Japanese player over the try-line as she burrowed over from close range.

And as the Sakura 15s kept the pressure on their opponents, Haruka Hirotsu charged down an attempted clearance kick before gathering the loose ball and dotting down.

Fly-half Otsuka converted both tries and she was involved in the scrum move that set the platform for number eight Ayano Nagai to crash over again in the 17th minute.

As the opening quarter ended, Kazakhstan were reduced to 14 players as Tatyana Dadajanova was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle.

It precipitated a scrappy 10-minute spell in which Japan second row Otaka Yoshimura and Kazakh winger Alena Melnikova – playing alongside her twin Anna – were also shown yellow cards by referee Sunny Lee.

Normal service resumed in the final 10 minutes of the first half, though, as captain Nagata took matters into her own hands, tapped a penalty and powered over the line.

That try wrapped up the bonus point and there was still time for a fifth before the half-time whistle, Yeva Bekker being punished for a fumble as Sakurako Korai pounced to score.

Japan took some time to find their groove in the second half and Kazakhstan’s defence held firm until the 53rd minute, when Yoshimura was rewarded for some quick thinking at the breakdown.

Three minutes later, replacement prop Manami Mine burrowed over and as the match ticked into the final quarter, the Sakura 15s scored their best try of the tournament.

Nao Ando added impetus to a brilliant team move, slicing through the Kazakh defence before popping a pass to replacement scrum-half Megumi Abe to score under the posts.

Miharu Machida scored Japan’s ninth try with a little over seven minutes remaining in Hong Kong before Otsuka capped a fine individual performance with a try of her own.

Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 is coming to England. Register now to be the first to hear about tickets.

(Photo credit: HKRC / AR Ike Images)

Last updated: May 27, 2024, 1:28:06 PM
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