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WXV starts to take shape

After the Asian and African Championship reached their conclusion today, four more teams booked their places in WXV.

Japan and South Africa will join Scotland in WXV2, and Kazakhstan and Kenya will join Ireland in WXV3 after a day of international test rugby across two continents.

Japan started the day with a lesson in dominance against Kazakhstan in Almaty. Wave after wave of cherry and white shirts rolled forward almost unstoppably against the Kazakhstan defence, with tries coming at regular intervals. Despite the efforts of the home team – who beat Hong Kong earlier in the week - Japan dominated every area and the only surprise perhaps was that Kazakhstan kept them below 80, having gone in 46-0 down at the break.

Despite the loss, Kazakhstan also qualify for WXV3 as runners-up in Asia.

Shortly afterwards across the Indian Ocean, Kenya beat Cameroon in Antananarivo to confirmed their place in WXV3 with a 52-3 win. East Africa’s top team took a while to get going against the best of west Africa, leading only 19-0 at half-time, but as the game wore on and Cameroon tired, the more experienced Kenyans began to find more gaps.

A crowd bigger than most teams in the world could dream of witnessed that game, but grew still more for Madagascar’s game against South Africa, which followed it.

The home team needed to beat the ‘Boks to qualify for WXV, which was always going to be a massive ask, but with another massive audience behind them (comfortably 15,000 and - again - one of the largest crowds ever for a women’s test) they never gave up and scored the only points South Africa conceded over the week, with a penalty and then a try just before the break that resulted in an explosion of joy in the crowd.

But the ‘Boks were another level altogether. They led 33-8 at half-time, raised their game a little more after the break for three more quick tries, then brought on most of their bench together for the last quarter, ending 79-8 winners.

Madagascar miss out on WXV this year because of their loss to Kenya in the first round last weekend, but staged a memorable tournament in Antananarivo in front of rugby’s most enthusiastic crowds. Hopefully it will not be long before international rugby returns to the island.

In the meanwhile we now know a little more about what the first WXV will look like:

WXV1 (New Zealand): England, France, Wales plus the top three from the Pacific 4s.

WXV2 (South Africa): Japan, Scotland, South Africa plus Italy or Spain, the Oceania winner, and Pacific 4s 4th team

WXV3 (venue TBA): Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya plus Italy or Spain, Colombia or Brazil, and the Oceania runner-up.