Dubai: The Japanese women’s rugby team is looking at drawing at least an iota of inspiration from the men and fast-track their preparations for next year’s home Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Japanese women’s team — and men, too — have been handed invitations to compete in the rugby sevens events considering their host nation status, and along with it the opportunity to take on some of the world’s most talented teams leading up to next year. In 2012-13, Japan played two World Series tournaments and a year later they showed marked improvement while standing seventh in Sao Paulo and eighth in Atlanta.
Japan played the full 2015-16 World Series with a best result of ninth coming right here at the Dubai Sevens while ending 11th in the overall standings. The Japanese women — called the Sakura Sevens — qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after winning the 2015 ARFU Women’s Sevens Championships.
Japan’s captain Chiharu Nakamura is pragmatic and practical about her team’s chances in the next few months as the novices of world rugby try to come on par.
“What we need to do is to try and keep the momentum going forward. All of us realise that this build-up period is one of the most exciting periods of our lives as rugby players. The difference between us and the other teams is simply too much and hence, we are always under pressure to perform,” Nakamura told Gulf News after losing all three of their Pool C matches.
“We need to focus more on set play while keeping more ball possession. This weekend we need to trust what we have done during training and look at the bigger picture on the growth chart. This is how we have reached here on this journey, and it is just fair that we back ourselves on the field irrelevant of who are opponents are,” she added.
Nakamura is one of the ‘seniors’ on the team having made her Olympic debut in Rio where they finished in 10th place after beating Kenya, but losing to the hosts on a couple of occasions. The rugby women’s competition at the iconic Tokyo Stadium from July 31-August 1, the main venue for the 2019 Rugby World Cup held earlier this year where Japan’s men’s impressed all with all four wins in Pool A before being knocked out by eventual champions South Africa in the quarter-finals.
“We know where we stand in the world of rugby. So one thing is four, there’s no fooling ourselves. We need to face a lot of things to play against the best teams of the world. We need to go step by step and one thing at a time. We need to focus on what we do best,” Nakamura said.
“We derive a lot of inspiration from our men’s team. We’ve learnt a lot from them, but I doubt we can do what they have achieved [in the World Cup]. However, we can continue dreaming. The men’s team trusted themselves and had a lot of self-belief. We need to also learn to trust ourselves,” she added.
“The Olympic Games are next year and we have only eight months. We need to grow faster than the others. We need to work hard and be ready to walk the talk,” Nakamura insisted.