These two nations know each other very well, Japan having emphatically won their two most recent encounters in the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship in July.
Japan will end a 15-year wait for their second World Cup victory if they can make it three wins this year against the side they also beat 20-8 in the Asia/Oceania qualifying tournament last December.
For Hong Kong, the carrot is even bigger in a first ever World Cup win and coach Jo Hull is eager for her squad to show how far her squad has progressed since losing 58-0 and 60-19 in that Asian competition.
“We are going into this game like it is our World Cup final,” said Hull, who has made a number of changes to her starting 15 for this battle for Asian pride.
“This World Cup we have had an opportunity to measure ourselves against the best in the world and now we have an opportunity to measure ourselves once again against one of the best teams in Asia. Playing Japan gives us a real chance to measure how much we have improved and whether we can come out of the World Cup as the top team in Asia. And that’s a real test of our character, so in that respect it’s great to play against them.
“We massively underperformed against Japan the last time out and now we have a chance to set that straight and the girls are very excited about that opportunity. Japan won’t be underestimating us. They know that we have improved massively over the World Cup and they have as well. Japan has had some really impressive performances against Ireland, Australia and France. They have shown what we have known for a long while; they’re young, talented and play at pace.”
Prop Lau Nga Wun, hooker Royce Chan and number eight Christine Gordon come into the forward pack, while teenager Kelsie Bouttle joins Natasha Olson-Thorne in the centre, necessitating a move back to full-back for Adrienne Garvey, the first Hong Kong player to score any points on the WRWC stage. The only other change see Kwong Sau Yan take her place on the right wing.
For Japan, captain Seina Saito moves from hooker to loose-head prop and is one of four Sakura 15 players to have played every minute of their WRWC 2017 campaign, the others being second-row Ayano Sakurai, flanker Sayaka Suzuki and centre Iroha Nagata.
The three other changes see Misaki Suzuki start at hooker with Aoi Mimura coming into the second row and Makiko Tomita returning to action having served her three-match suspension following her red card in the opening loss to France.
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Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017, 11th Place Play-Off, Match 25
Sat 26 Aug 2017
Local time kick off 12:00
Queen’s University, Belfast
Refree: Aimee Barrett-Theron