Tokyo, JP – January 21, 2019: The Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) has confirmed their selection of Lesley McKenzie as the new coach of the Japan Women’s XV team. The former Canadian National Team player, capped 25 times for her country, replaces Goshi Arimizu as the Japanese Women’s XV eye continuing dominance of the Asian Rugby scene.
Originally from Fort Nelson, or “up near the Yukon” as McKenzie has been quoted in the past, she forged a career playing career with UBCOB Ravens and represented Canada at the 2006 and 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cups. Some of her first steps into coaching came in 2009 with UBC, a pathway that would eventually lead her to spend time in New Zealand and then ultimately relocate there. A renowned rugby rich culture, New Zealand provided McKenzie with the perfect platform to evolve her career from player to builder.
Lesley worked as a Rugby Development Officer with first Wellington Rugby and then Wanganui Rugby in New Zealand’s North Island, but coaching has always remained on her radar. Just last year she stepped away from her RDO role and New Zealand to take up a role as Assistant Coach for the Japan Women’s Sevens team along with working with local academies.
The step up to Head Coach of the XVs side is a huge honour for McKenzie and reflects both her own experience as a player as well as her strengths as a coach. She takes charge of a side that has experienced huge success in the local rugby scene, claiming the title of Asia Rugby Women’s Champions in three of the last four seasons.
The challenge for the team and McKenzie will now be building on this success in the years to come. Japan finished 11th in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup and will doubtless be targeting stronger performances against European, North American and Southern Hemisphere sides in the buildup to New Zealand 2021. It will be exciting to see the progress McKenzie makes at the helm, so watch this space.