The Japan Rugby Football Union have announced their squads for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. 24 Men and Women have been named in the Japan Rugby Sevens Olympics squads to represent the Land Of The Rising Sun.
Entering Rio as a competitor among the other 12 sides; on this occasion, Japan must impress with their competitiveness. In 2016 they are invited by Brazil to share the dreams of all other teams. In 2020, Tokyo host the Summer Games themselves, so as well as aiming for Gold this time, Japan can look forward to inviting all sides to join them in four years time.
Road To Rio
Reigning champions of the Asian Games, they are the Top qualifier within the Asian region. With those credentials, they will carry the only hope from this developing region to the ‘Holy Grail’ of all sports.
The Japanese Men’s team, known as the Cherry Blossoms defeated Hong Kong 24-10 in the Asian Olympic Qualifier in November. That victory earned their spot in Rio. Their sister-side, the Sakura Sevens defeated Kazakhstan 22-0 to book their spot as well, a coup for the JRFU. This caps a stellar year for the nation: 2015 Rugby World Cup, the new Sunwolves Super Rugby side and the popularity of the sport on the Island chain.
Japan Rugby Sevens Olympics Squads Named
Men’s Head Coach Tomohiro Segawa has opted for the core of the team that he has rotated with in the last two seasons. This includes flyer Yushikazu Fujita being the most obvious inclusion because of his pure speed. One of the key elements which this side will need in Rio. Not that Fujita is new to the game–he debuted 2011. Recently has been playing the fifteen man code, so Fujita will need to adapt very quickly. Crucially, if given room Fujita will punish you down the flanks as he has lightning speed to match the likes of Seabelo Senatla and Carlin Isles.
Lomano Lemeki and Lote Tuqiri have become the backbone of Japanese Sevens in the last two years. The Internationals will help carry the hopes of the Asian Region with their experience and leadership. Each have adapted to their adopted country, together with fellow South Sea Islander Kameli Soejima.
They have built a good understanding with fellow players and all believe in Blossoms captain Katsuyaki Sakai. The highly effective wing leads his men through his talents and his action. Along with talisman Yusaku Kawazura, they will all ensure the Japanese are one of the ‘dark horses’. Japan, Kenya and Spain will all take their chances, and the Blossoms must target early games within their Pool C [New Zealand, Great Britain and Kenya]
Cherry Blossoms Squad: Kameli Soejima, Ahkito Yamada, Yusaku Kawazura, Lote Tuqiri, Katsuyaki Sakai (c), Lomano Lemeki, Masakatsu Hikosaka, Kazushi Yano, Teruya Goto, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Kenki Fokuoka, Kazuhira Goya, Yushikazu Fujita, Chihito Matsui
High Hopes For Sakura Sevens
Women’s coach Keiko Asamai is sticking with her proven team from the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series. Captain Chiharu Nakamura again leads the side, with the talented all-round player Marie Yamaguchi a key member of the group.
They are small yes, but what they lack in size they make it up for with determination and the will to compete with the best. They will give their all. They know their opponents [from the Sevens Series] and with that knowledge, will calculate a gameplan.
A good all round squad, they will throw in their all with Yamaguchi and Nakamura leading the charge in Pool C [Canada, Great Britain and hosts Brazil]
Sakura Sevens squad: Yuka Kanematsu, Aye Takeuchi, Chiharu Nakamura (c), Keiko Kato, Ano Kuwai, Marie Yamaguchi, Makiko Komita, Chisato Yokoo, Nariko Taniguchi, Ai Nakamura, Yume Ohkuroda, Mio Yamanaka, Mifiyu Koide
With the Kazakhstan women’s team making in-roads during the Olympic qualifier in Dublin, the Sakura Sevens need to stamp their mark at the Olympics. A team with a long history, they must aim for wins. To be offensive, not defensive. This goes for the men too. If the XV’s team can defy the odds at the Rugby World Cup, and defeat South Africa, why can’t they? A positive attitude is key.
Meanwhile, in other news leading toward Rio:
Team Great Britain continued their buildup. winning the ‘Sevens and the City’ tournaments. The GB Lions beat GB Royals 27-14.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) July 2, 2016
Meanwhile in South Africa, the Blitzboks won the Ausspol7s in Stellenbosch as the men’s squad chase for limited spots in Neil Powell’s final group. The fight for Rio ‘hots up’ in Africa.
“Main photo” courtesy of Japan Rugby Football Union facebook page.