Victory for Japan over Fiji in the second match of the Asia/Oceania WRWC 2017 qualification tournament would result in both the Sakura 15s and hosts Hong Kong making it through to the game’s flagship competition in Ireland next summer.
The top two teams will progress to WRWC 2017, and having lost 45-7 to Hong Kong in the opening match of the triangular tournament, Fijiana cannot afford to be beaten again.
It will take some turnaround for Seremai Bai’s side to keep their dream of a first-ever appearance at a Women’s Rugby World Cup alive, as they were well-beaten at Kings Park on Friday.
Bai has reacted to the defeat by making nine changes of personnel and one positional switch to his starting XV, with right wing Wainikiti Deku shifting to full-back.
Number eight, Sereima Leweniqila, Fijiana’s try-scorer against Hong Kong, is promoted from the bench and takes the captain’s armband from Lailanie Burnes, who is named amongst the replacements.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Tuesday’s game is Japan’s first in 15s since they beat Hong Kong to be crowned Asian champions back in May. They will look to adopt a fast-paced approach similar to that of the Brave Blossoms, according to head coach Goshi Arimizu.
“You can expect to see us play the Japanese way and keep the ball moving,” said Arimizu. “As for Fiji, we don’t know much about them, so I am not going to make any predictions. But we have been preparing the team to win this tournament.”
Injuries have resulted in Arimizu fielding a much-changed side to the one that beat Hong Kong 30-3 in Tokyo at the end of May.
He has named a completely new back line but six of the pack remain the same, including the entire front row.
Seina Saito will captain the side from loose-head prop as the Sakura 15s look to nail qualification before Saturday’s finale against Hong Kong.
“It is the wish of everyone involved to reach the Women’s Rugby World Cup because we have missed out on the last three tournaments,” added Arimizu.
Click here to watch a live stream of the match between Japan and Fiji.