Saffas headline Japan squad
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has named a 63-man squad for their 2022 Test season.
Joseph has included four South African-born players in the squad.
In the pack loose forwards Wimpie van der Walt and Pieter Lappies Labuschagne have been included, while utility backs Gerhard van den Heever and Shane Gates are the other two South Africans.
Former Bulls and Stormers back Van den Heever was first called into the Japan squad in 2021, has yet to play a Test.
Gates made his Test debut last year, while Van der Walt boasts 18 Test caps for his adopted country and Labuschange 13.
“With just over a year to go before Rugby World Cup 2023 in France, I’m delighted to announce our wider training squad ahead of a solid test match series. Following the disruption in hosting international test matches over the last two years, it’s exciting to be able to play at home again, in front of our fans and in stadiums around the country.
“As a coaching team, we’ve been closely following League One and have been really pleased with the quality of rugby and the level of competition we’re seeing. Japan’s top domestic club competition continues to improve year on year and is now, more than ever before, a genuine proving ground from which we can draw a world-class squad.
“In choosing this squad we’ve looked to find the right balance between experience, potential and x-factor, while also looking at players that can bring the skill set and attitude that complements our style of play, while also offering scope to evolve our style.
“Our senior players have an important role as the experienced backbone of the team, while also mentoring and guiding the younger players. For the newer guys, we’re looking for them to step up and take the opportunity to make their mark and add an extra dimension to the team.
“With our focus firmly on Rugby World Cup 2023, our selections are all about looking forward and putting ourselves in the best possible position to challenge every team as we continue to improve our rugby against the best teams in the world.”
A refined national team squad will be announced on May 31 and will assemble for a team camp in Miyazaki, in Kyushu from June 3 to 30
Brave Blossoms play Uruguay on Saturday, June 18 at Prince Chichibu Rugby Stadium in Tokyo and on Saturday, June 25, at Kitakyushu’s Mikuni World Stadium in Kyushu. They will then take on the Grand Slam-winning, 2022 Six Nations Champions France on Saturday, July 2 at Toyota Stadium in Aichi, before returning to Tokyo to take on France once again at the iconic Japan National Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday, July 9.
The Brave Blossoms will travel to Europe for their autumn tour, with their match against England at Twickenham, already confirmed for November 12.
Japan 63-man squad:
Yuya Odo, Yutaka Nagare, Yusuke Kizu, Yusuke Kajimura, Yukio Morikawa, Yu Tamura, Yoshitaka Tokunga, Wimpie Van der Walt, Warner Dearns, Timothy Lafaele, Tevita Tatafu, Takuya Yamasawa, Takayasu Tsuji, Takato Okabe, Takahiro Ogawa, Taichi Takahashi, Siosaia Fifita, Sione Teapa, Shunta Nakamura, Shunsuke Asaoka, Shota Horie, Shogo Nakano, Shinnosuke Kakinaaga, Shane Gates, Seungshin Lee, Seiya Ozaki, Sanaila Waqa, Ryuji Noguchi, Ryota Hasegawa, Ryohei Yanabaka, Rento Tsukayama, Rakuhei Yamashita, Pieter Labuschagne, Naoto Shimada, Naoto Saito, Michael Leitch, Masato Furukawa, Kosuki Horikoshi, Koki Takeyama, Koga Nezuka, Kengo Kitagawa, Keita Inagaki, Kazuki Himeno, Kanji Shimokawa, Kaito Shigeno, Jose Seru, Jone Naikabula, Jack Cornelsen, Hayata Nakao, Harumichi Tatekawa, Gerhard Van Den Heever, Fhiroki Yamamoto, Faulua Makisi, Dylan Riley, Daiki Nakajima, Daigo Hashimoto, Daichi Akiyama, Craig Millar, Ben Gunter, Atsushi Sakate, Ataata Moeakiola, Asaeli Ai Valu, Amanaki Saumaki