Sakura Fifteen raising their profile in Japan ahead of Rugby World Cup 2021
We caught up with Japan coach Lesley McKenzie as she prepares her team for a two-test series against Ireland.
In Adelaide, Australia host New Zealand as part of a doubleheader with the men’s Rugby Championship game between the Wallabies and South Africa. The Black Ferns won last weekend’s encounter in Christchurch 52-5 to retain the O'Reilly Cup.
While that fixture is a familiar one, especially since the return of the O’Reilly Cup, Scotland v USA at the DAM Health Stadium in Edinburgh is the first meeting between the teams in 16 years.
Elsewhere, Canada face Wales on home soil in Halifax, and Japan get an opportunity to put last week’s 57-22 defeat to Ireland behind them when the teams meet for the second consecutive week.
While it is not possible for either New Zealand (second) and Canada (fourth) to improve their rankings position, because they won’t receive any additional points for victories against sides whose points total is much lower than theirs, the rest of the teams – with the exception of the USA – can climb the rankings if results fall for them in the right way.
Should Australia produce the most spectacular turnaround in women’s test rugby history and beat the Black Ferns a week after coming so badly unstuck, a rise of three places to fifth is possible. Ireland and USA would be the casualties of such an eventuality.
Meanwhile, defeat for the Black Ferns would see them slip outside of the top two for the first time since the rankings were introduced in February 2016.
USA can pick up a maximum of 1.09 points for victory over Scotland but that would still leave them well over seven points behind Canada in fifth place. The Women’s Eagles could drop three places if beaten, to equal their lowest-ever position of eighth.
If successful in their first test since the end of the Women’s Six Nations in April, Scotland will climb above Wales to match their equal highest ranking of ninth.
Ireland, who are the only team in action who failed to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2021, cannot improve on sixth place with victory unless USA are beaten in Scotland as they can only gain a maximum of 0.19 rating points.
Rugby World Cup 2014 finalists Canada won 24-7 the last time they faced Wales in Cardiff in November last year, and are on a five-match winning run against Ioan Cunningham’s side.
Saturday’s match in Halifax will be only the second time the teams have met on Canadian soil and the first since Canada won 20-8 in Brampton in 1993.
Of the two teams, only Wales can move up the rankings. But that is not certain even with a resounding victory of 16 points or more as Wales will still need Ireland and Scotland to lose for them to improve on ninth place.
Rounding things off, Japan will remain 13th whatever happens this weekend as they cannot catch Spain above in victory and would still have a 4.23 point advantage over Russia, the side immediately below them, in defeat.
Photo credit: INPHO/Akito Iwamoto