And the return of Kashiwagi-san!!!

Fri, Dec 8, 2023, 8:58 AM
Ben Somerford

The Western Force’s Super W program has agreed to a partnership with Japanese rugby women’s team Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix headlined by player exchanges and international travel opportunities including pre-season trial games.

The partnership has been agreed with a range of benefits for both clubs, with a view to sharing knowledge, plus the exchange of management, coaches, training staff and media staff, co-creation branding and academy planning.

Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix are a Japanese rugby club founded in 2002, with the women's rugby team founded in 2013. The women’s team were Japanese champions in the 2022 season for both the 7-per-side and 15-per-side tournament.

As part of the partnership, the Force will host the Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix in Perth in early 2024 for trial games prior to the Super W season; one weekend game and one weekday game. It has been agreed the Phoenix will host the Force in Tokyo for games in October 2024 too.

As part of the player exchange opportunities, Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix front rower Natsuki Kashiwagi will be loaned to the Force for the 2024 Super W season, with a similar arrangement to be formalised in 2025. There will be further opportunities for Force players to be loaned to Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix in 2024 and 2025.

Force Head of Female High Performance Claudia Bell said: “This partnership is another step in growing our women’s program with a view to player growth and staff professional development through the player and staff exchange opportunities.

“The commitment to pre-season trial games in Perth and Tokyo in 2024 also exposes our playing group to an international opposition team that plays a different style of rugby and provides our players with an opportunity to learn how to travel as a professional sports team and handle foreign on-field conditions.

“The addition of international quality talent through the player exchange helps both parties and we’re thrilled to have Natsuki return to play for the Force in 2024.”

Kashiwagi, who played several games for the Force in 2023, is a versatile 25-year-old prop and a newly-capped Japan international from October’s WXV2 tournament.

Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix GM and former Japan national team player Yohei Shinomiya said: “Another long-held dream has come true. I believe that in order for women's rugby to become a more attractive sport, it was necessary not only to play within Japan, but also to play overseas.

“I believe that we can form a partnership with a Super Rugby team and play a role in helping Japanese female rugby players continue to play the sport for a long time.

“During the Australia tour, we would like to convey the charm of Japanese culture and the Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix through women's rugby. I want to help many players join Phoenix and spread their wings around the world, just like I once played overseas.”