"We've just got to come back at them": Hamilton and Wallaroos preparing for tough Japan encounter

Womens International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton says Australia is expecting a fiery Japanese outfit coming their way in Saturday’s Test series opener in Newcastle.

The Aussies arrived in Newcastle over the weekend and began their Test match preparations in earnest ahead of Saturday afternoon’s opening match of a two-Test series.

Australia last played Japan in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, beating them 29-15 in a gritty clash.

Hamilton featured in that game more than two years and said they expected another difficult contest this weekend, her first match as the side's skipper.

“Japan are tough,” she said.

“In the World Cup they came at us and I remember standing behind the goal posts just saying that we needed to stick to our structures and we need to come out firing because they are very structured and they will come at us.

“We've just got to come back at them and try and do our little things right.”

Since that 2017 tournament, the Wallaroos calendar has expanded significantly, with four Tests slated for this year alone, the highest outside a World Cup year.

From next season year, Australia is expected to be part of a four-nation tournament involving Canada, the USA and New Zealand as well.

On the other hand, this will be Japan’s first international clash since the quadrennial tournament, a moment captain Saki Minami said via a translator that they were looking forward to.

“It's a very hot summer right now (in Japan) and coming to Newcastle it's nice and cool,” Minami said via a translator.

“The first match since 2017 World Cup, we play against any international side so we are very excited to play this game and we have been preparing well for this game.”

This weekend’s Wallaroos outfit could be a very different one from that which went to the 2017 World Cup and even that which took on the Black Ferns in 2018.

The Wallaroos’ 29-player squad for the two-Test Japan series, which starts in Newcastle and travels to North Sydney Oval next weekend, includes 11 potential debutants.

Hamilton said the improvement of the Super W competition, in its second season this year, was showing in the new blood coming through.

Japan captain Saki Minami and Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton in Newcastle. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“I'm really excited,” she said.

“There's some new girls which is so lovely to see, there's so much depth within Australia now.

“Those girls that are coming through, it's a testament to the hard work they've been doing and, I think, the Super W seasons we've had. 

“So for us just getting out there and being able to blood some new girls within this team is incredible and they're so lovely and I can't wait to see what we do on the weekend.”

The Wallaroos and Japan squads will play a closed practice match on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s series opener.

The Wallaroos host Japan in their opening Test on Saturday July 13 at Newcastle Sportsground no. 2, kicking off at 3pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.