With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, the Japanese Women national rugby 7s team (Sakura Sevens) is on Guam preparing for the Olympics and training for an upcoming Seven Series Tournament, the Sydney 7, which will be held in Australia on Feb. 1-2.
According to the Sakura Sevens Team Manager Akane Kagawa, the team wanted to get away from the cold weather three weeks before the tournament.
“In Japan it is very cold. We wanted to start the New Year in the warm weather of Guam,” she said. “We have the Seven Series in about three weeks. We came here to train and work on our skills for a few more days. Then we will go to Australia for the Sydney Tournament.”
This is an exciting time for Japanese rugby because they played host to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and in less than a year, they will showcase the Land of the Rising Sun on the biggest sports stage – the 2020 Olympics.
The Japanese men’s national rugby team had the entire country behind them when they became the first Asia team to ever reach the quarterfinals when they hosted the 2019 World Cup. Japan was eliminated by South Africa, the team that eventually won the cup.
This successful performance sparked an interest in rugby to the new fans throughout Japan.
“Before the World Cup, there were not a lot of people interested in rugby. That’s because it was not one of our major sports, but now lots of people are interested in the sport,” Kagawa said. “I think the attention is getting bigger and bigger and that affects our women’s team. Now, people are following the women’s team.”
The excitement is fueling the Japanese women’s national 15s and 7s teams. Riding on this emotional high from the World Cup, the Japanese women’s national team is also making headway against other rugby powerhouses from around the world. Just recently in Europe, the Sakura Fifteen played well enough to move up to 12th place in the world. Currently, the Sakura Sevens is ranked 11th.
According to Kagawa, this success has fueled youth rugby leagues that could eventually develop stronger teams in the future.
For now, the Sakura Seven Team will continue to train and play in a few more 7s tournaments this year in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
“We just want to keep up with our training and to work hard for the Olympics,” Kagawa said. “Hopefully, we can get a medal and show the people of Japan we are strong in the world.”