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'I'm really gutted... it's a really horrible way to come unstitched'

By Matt Merritt
(Photo by Hannah Peters/World Rugby via Getty Images)

It was a case of ruing what might have been for Japan as their slim half-time lead slipped away to become a decisive 30-17 USA victory at the World Cup. The Japanese battled hard and capitalised on any opportunities but American brawn in the end won the day.


“I’m really gutted for the girls because they did everything that we asked of them, minus the penalty count,” said coach Lesley McKenzie after Japan have given way to the USA. “It’s a really horrible way to come unstitched because it is on us and so we have the knowledge that we could have handled the game better than we did.

“We wanted to control possession better than we did in the first game and we particularly were able to control territory and I’m so proud of the way they did that. They managed that throughout and we just missed opportunities. Lack of discipline and lapses in judgement were the issues here and I’m really sorry for the team that they had to learn a lesson this way.”

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USA v Japan | Match Highlights | Rugby World Cup 2021
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USA v Japan | Match Highlights | Rugby World Cup 2021

Those missed chances that allowed the USA to capitalise with pace and power will haunt Japan, but they will also be able to look back on a lot they can be proud of as a rugby nation on the rise. Sakura captain Saki Minami sees an opportunity for Japan to utilise their strengths in the future and the opportunities for women’s rugby in Japan.

“I am so proud to see my teammates that are putting their bodies on the line for this team. Even players who are smaller in stature are showing how to use that to their advantage and it’s so exciting to see. I really believe that by pushing harder and making a win we can help to increase the value of women’s rugby in Japan. What is necessary for us to get a win here is to make the most of the chances we make and through that, we can control the game and make sure things go our way.”


McKenzie also saw definite positives for the future. “It’s a trajectory and a learning curve. The game doesn’t love us and it teaches us some hard lessons and that is part of the World Cup. I’m still quite happy with a lot of things we did – we still need to remind ourselves of the good things we did.”


Despite a difficult fixture next weekend against Italy and the likelihood that the team will go home with no match points to their name, their coach remained buoyant. “The stories aren’t written and the outcomes are not set in stone because we lost two games. We have some positives and we are capable of controlling the game, so it’s up to us.

“We have put a lot of work into this World Cup. We have a lot of players that could be playing. We are working with senior players, so the girls are operating at a really high capacity considering the domestic infrastructure that we don’t have. I’m really proud of where they are but we can do better and that is the frustration.”


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