Saffas and Aussies headline Japan tour squad
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Japan coach Jamie Joseph has named 10 uncapped players in his 37-man squad for internationals against Australia, Ireland, Portugal and Scotland.
Loose forward Michael Leitch was included in the squad after being relieved of the captaincy last week in an effort to improve his chances of playing in a fourth World Cup in 2023.
The team will be skippered by South African-born flank Pieter “Lappies” Labuschagne with centre Ryoto Nakamura, who played in all five matches on Japan’s run to the quarter-finals at the last World Cup, as vice-captain.
Stalwart lock Wimpie Van Der Walt missed out through injury, while there was no place in the squad for 29-cap No.8 Amanaki Mafi.
Uncapped development player Daichi Akiyama was one of three locks named along with Australia-born James Moore and Liaki Moli, although No.8 Kazuki Himeno can also play in the second row.
Brisbane-educated Ben Gunter, another of the uncapped players, and Jack Cornelsen, the son of Wallaby Greg, are among nine players who will battle it out for the three starting loose forward spots.
Along with Moore and uncapped South African-born wing Dylan Riley, they will be particularly keen to earn a place in the side when the Brave Blossoms take on the Wallabies in Oita on October 23.
That test is followed by a match against Ireland in Dublin on November 6, a trip to Lisbon to play Portugal on November 13 and then a first meeting with Scotland since their 2019 World Cup clash at Murrayfield on November 20.
Japan have played two matches since they hosted the World Cup two years ago, losing 28-10 to a British and Irish Lions XV in June and going down 39-31 to Ireland in July.
Forwards: Shunsuke Asaoka, Keita Inagaki, Asaeli Ai Valu, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Koo Ji-won, Isileli Nakajima, Craig Millar, Atsushi Sakate, Yusuke Niwai, Kosuke Horikoshi, Daichi Akiyama, James Moore, Liaki Moli, Ben Gunter, Jack Cornelsen, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Ryota Hasegawa, Pieter Labuschagne, Michael Leitch, Tevita Tatafu, Kazuki Himeno, Shota Fukui.
Backs: Naoto Saito, Kaito Shigeno, Yutaka Nagare, Yu Tamura, Rikiya Matsuda, Taichi Takahashi, Jone Naikabula, Shogo Nakano, Siosaia Fifita, Lomano Lemeki, Semisi Masirewa, Ryoto Nakamura, Timothy Lafaele, Dylan Riley, Ryohei Yamanaka.