Japan aren’t elite level opposition but they’ll do just nicely for an Australian women’s rugby team desperate to beef up their Test program.
A two-match series against the 16th-ranked Japanese begins with a Test in Newcastle on Saturday, followed by a second in Sydney six days later.
They precede two Tests against New Zealand which, like last year, will be played immediately before Bledisloe Cup clashes in August.
The seventh-ranked Wallaroos have never played four Tests in a non-World Cup year, leaving newly-appointed captain Grace Hamilton pleased simply to be able to gauge their progress this month.
While the world’s top five ranked teams – New Zealand, England, Canada, France and the United States – are currently engaging in a tournament in San Diego, Hamilton was pleased some rising Australian talent will get a chance to showcase their wares.
There are 11 uncapped players in their 29-strong squad, with those who showed promising Super W form handed opportunities at the next level up ahead of the 2021 World Cup in New Zealand.
“There’s some new girls, which is lovely to see, there’s so much depth within Australia now,” Hamilton said.
“It’s testament to the hard work they’ve been doing in the (two) Super W seasons that we’ve had.
“To be able to blood some new girls at this stage of the season is incredible and I can’t wait to see what they do.”
There is anticipation over the likely Wallaroos debut for Kiwi-born midfield back Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, who was a standout performer this year for Queensland.
The 18-year-old has just become eligible for Australia following a three-year stand-down period.
Former skipper Liz Patu has been selected but lost the captaincy, seemingly paying for a biting incident in March while on duty for Queensland which earned her a six-week suspension.
Hamilton said Japan will be no pushover, recalling Australia were forced to work for a 29-15 win in their last meeting, at Dublin during the 2017 World Cup.
It is Japan’s first Test since that tournament.
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