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Big omission as Japan reveal their World Cup squad

SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has named his World Cup squad With three places in the 33-member squad still to be confirmed.


Joseph revealed a 30-man squad comprising 15 forwards and 15 backs. His final squad will be announced on August 21.

Following the Brave Blossom’s record-breaking run at their home World Cup in 2019, the 2023 Japan squad sees a new generation of players coming through, backed up by a core of experienced campaigners.

Of the 30 players announced, 13 featured in the 2019 squad including prop, Keita Inagaki and fullback  Kotaro Matsushima were also part of the 2015 squad for the World Cup in England. Hooker, Shota Horie and back row, Michael Leitch also featured in New Zealand in 2011, and are both set to represent Japan at their fourth World Cup.

The big omission is South African-born flank Pieter Labuschagne. The former captain was left out of the squad after receiving a three-match ban for foul play in Japan’s World Cup warm-up match against Fiji in Tokyo. The suspension means that Labuschagne will miss three warm-ups against Italy on 26 August, and crucial World Cup Pool D matches against Chile and England.

In terms of new faces, prop, Sione Halasili and scrumhalf, Kenta Fukuda are the only two uncapped players in the squad, alongside another nine players with less than 10 test caps experience.

Commenting on the Japan World Cup squad selection, Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph said:


“We’re going into the World Cup to win it,” Joseph said.

“As a tournament, if you can get to the quarter finals, anything can happen, so our first step is to make the top-eight and take things from there. We understand that’s a massive challenge, but the team takes a lot of confidence from what we achieved in 2019, surprising the world by the way we played and how we went through our pool unbeaten. It’s our challenge to do that again in 2023.

“Recently we’ve had some tough results, with a couple of red cards and some serious injuries to some senior players that have really affected the team. But at the same time, it’s given us great preparation for the World Cup. Red and yellow cards will become an increasing feature of the modern game and every week, in every test match, players have to be able to adjust to these moments.

“In selecting the squad we’ve worked around the fact that we can’t replace or take more than 33 players, so we need to make sure all bases are covered. What that looks like in terms of specialist positions, we’re taking nine front rows, and three specialist nines and tens. So just under half the squad cover only five positions. In terms of the final selection, it reduces our options, so we’ve selected players who can focus on one position, but also have the ability to play in another one or two positions as well.”

Japan 30-man World Cup squad

Props: Keita Inagaki, Craig Millar, Sione Halasili, Jiwon Gu, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Asaeli Ai Valu


Hookers: Shota Horie , Atsushi Sakate , Kosuke Horikoshi

Locks: James Moore

Back row: Jack Cornelsen , Shota Fukui , Kazuki Himeno, Michael Leitch, Ben Gunter

Scrumhalves: Naoto Saito , Yutaka Nagare , Kenta Fukuda

Flyhalves: Lee Seung-sin, Rikiya Matsuda , Jumpei Ogura

Wings: Siosaia Fifita, Semisi Masirewa, Jone Naikabula, Lomano Lava Lemeki

Centres: Ryoto Nakamura , Tomoki Osada , Shogo Nakano , Dylan Riley

Fullbacks: Kotaro Matsushima

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