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[ODDS and EVENS] For Sakura 15, Women's Rugby World Cup Represents Opportunity for Growth

Japan's national squad is making only its third tournament appearance this century. Therefore, each match is a vital part of its overall development.

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Japan's Kie Tamai carries the ball as Canada's Mikiela Nelson attempts to make a tackle in a Women's Rugby World Cup match on October 9 in Whangarei, New Zealand. (Courtesy of World Rugby/via SANKEI)

This article first appeared on SportsLook, JAPAN Forward's dedicated sports website.

Global tournaments are important testing grounds for individual athletes and national teams.

Case in point: The ongoing Women's Rugby World Cup, which got underway on October 8 and is scheduled to end on November 12. 

At the 12-nation tournament in New Zealand, Japan is appearing in back-to-back World Cups for the first time since 1991 (the inaugural tournament) and '94.

Japan didn't qualify for the 1998 tourney, returned in 2002, then failed to qualify again until 2017, missing out three times (2006, 2010 and 2014). 

In 2017, Japan finished 11th overall, winning its final clash in Ireland (44-5 over Hong Kong) to end the tournament on a positive note after dropping its first four matches. Since 2017, there was a five-year gap due to the global pandemic, with the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup being delayed a year.

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Entering the current World Cup, the Sakura Fifteen are ranked No. 13 in the world. Fiji, at No. 21, is the lowest-ranked squad competing in New Zealand. The top half-dozen ranked teams are No. 1 England, reigning champion and No. 2 New Zealand, aka the Black Ferns, No. 3 Canada, No. 4 France, No. 5 Italy and No. 6 United States.

Read the full story on SportsLook.

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven, and find him on JAPAN Forward's dedicated sports website, SportsLook.

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