In the build-up to their test against Italy this weekend, Japan star Saki Minami spoke about how they intended to use the exploits of their male counterparts in reaching the Rugby World Cup 2019 quarter-finals as inspiration in a bid to take their own game to new levels on their current tour of Europe.

And they were every bit as good as their word in L'Aquila on Saturday, earning a 17-17 draw away to this year's Women's Six Nations runners-up and a side ranked 10 places higher.


In a match played in heavy rain, Japan defied the poor conditions to play some enterprising rugby and were first on the scoreboard through winger Anna Kasai. But the hosts hit back straight, as fellow winger Sofia Stefan capitalised on a Noriko Taniguchi yellow card to dot down and level matters.

A second try from the dangerous Stefan and Michela Sillari's conversion put Italy in front for the first time in the match but parity was restored at half-time when Sakura 15s captain Saki Minami scored and the extras were tagged on.

Midway through the second half, Italy scored their third try when hooker Lucia Cammarano finished off a powerful maul, but Japan responded yet again through Seina Saito and Ai Hirayama converted to make it 17-17.

Japan dominated the closing stages, continuing to impress with slick handling but they were unable to turn that pressure into further points and the chance of a first win over Italy at the third attempt narrowly escaped them.

Another score would have seen Japan set a new high in the World Rugby Women's Ranking of 13th. Instead, they climb one place to 15th with Italy dropping down to seventh and Australia taking sixth in their place.

A Player of the Year performance 

Higher up the rankings, World Rugby Women's 15s Player of the Year 2019 Emily Scarratt set up England's only try and kicked four penalties to help her side to a 17-15 win over France at Exeter's Sandy Park.

In bright sunshine and in front of a bumper 9,699 crowd, France looked set to come away with a win but Scarratt's break and pass found Lydia Thompson on the right and she sprinted over to snatch victory at the death.

While the teams remain in second and third place in the rankings, the gap between the two is now more than six points. England have also cut New Zealand's cushion at the top to just 0.88 of a point.

Bethan Lewis and Lisa Neumann scores combined with a penalty try awarded at the end of the first half saw Wales to a 17-3 victory against Scotland at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow. 

Scotland, who had come into the match on the back of three consecutive wins, could only manage a penalty from inside centre Helen Nelson.

Wales leapfrog Spain and move into eighth place in the rankings while Scotland stay put in 11th.

Meanwhile, Czechia's 17-5 victory over Sweden extended their year-long unbeaten run to five matches. Having been bottom of the rankings only a few weeks ago, they are now as high as 51st, overtaking Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Finland and Barbados after Saturday's result, which also saw them retain the Rugby Europe Women's Trophy.

Photo credit: FIR