World Cup player profiles: Japan

Date published: September 11 2015

Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we take a look at all of the players set to feature in England. Next up, Japan

Forwards: Michael Leitch (c), Justin Ives, Shoji Ito, Keita Inagaki, Hitoshi Ono, Takeshi Kizu, Hendrik Tui, Luke Thompson, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Michael Broadhurst, Ryu Holani, Shota Horie, Shinya Makabe, Amanaki Mafi, Masataka Mikami, Hiroshi Yamashita, Hiroki Yuhara

Backs: Craig Wing, Kosei Ono, Ayumu Goromaru, Male Sau, Harumichi Tatekawa, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yu Tamura, Toshiaki Hirose, Atsushi Hiwasa, Kenki Fukuoka, Yoshikazu Fujita, Karne Hesketh, Kotaro Matsushima, Akihito Yamada


Loose-forward    1.96m    110kg     30.10.1986

The elder brother of All Black lock James Broadhurst, Michael has been a regular for Japan since making his debut in 2012 against Romania. The flanker has over 20 caps to his name and impressively has started 19 straight games for Japan over the past three years. This will be the Ricoh Black Rams forward's first World Cup but it won't be a family affair as his brother missed the All Black cut.


Wing     1.85m     86kg    08.10.1993

A prolific winger, Fujita burst onto the international scene with an incredible six tries on debut in a crushing win over Saudi Arabia in 2012. Aged just 18 at the time, he became Japan's youngest-ever player, and despite a serious knee injury suffered soon after, he has gone on to score 25 tries in 26 caps. Also a member of Japan's Sevens squad, he will aim to help them qualify for the Olympics in Rio later this year.  


  Wing    1.75m     83kg    07.09.1992

One of the quickest members of the Japanese squad, Fukuoka made a flying start to his Test career with two tries on debut against the Philippines in 2013. He went on to score another brace against Scotland later that year, but was then slowed down by injuries and struggled on his return. He has returned to form in 2015, while he is also a key member of the Japanese Sevens squad.


Full-back    1.85m    100kg    01.03.1986

Japan's second youngest player ever when he made his debut in 2005, Ayumu Goromaru was then cast into the international wilderness for four years until a recall in 2009 under John Kirwan. An accomplished goal-kicker, the full-back is now Japan's highest-ever points scorer in international rugby, and won his 50th cap in 2015. He was man of the match in Japan's historic win over Wales in 2013, a week after missing three crucial kicks in the first Test between the sides.


Prop    1.78m    113kg    02.08.1985

Japan's most experienced prop forward who is set to hit 70 caps for his country during the World Cup pool stages, he made his international debut in 2008 against USA. Impressively for a front-row he has scored ten tries, one of which came during 2011's World Cup.


Wing/Centre    1.78m    98kg    01.08.1985

Capable of playing both on the wing and at outside centre, New Zealand-born Hesketh made his debut for the Brave Blossoms in November 2014 during a win over Romania. He arrived in Japan back in 2010 having previously played for Otago University.


Wing/Fly-half    1.73m    82kg     17.10.1981

A surprise inclusion in Japan's World Cup squad, veteran winger Toshiaki Hirose hasn't started for Japan since 2013, having made his debut all the way back in 2007. He's used to waiting, not winning his second cap until 2012 under new boss Eddie Jones. He has played most of his rugby under Jones on the wing and has 11 Test tries to his name.


Scrum-half    1.65m     72kg    22.05.1987

Scrum-half Hiwasa has been Fumiaki Tanaka's back-up since breaking into the national team back in 2011. He was part of the World Cup squad four years ago, and has established himself as one of the best scrum-halves playing in the Top League. He has won two Japanese titles with Suntory Sungoliath, while also having a spell in Europe with Stade Français, although he didn't play a game for the Parisians.


Lock/Back-row    1.88m    111kg    25.10.1981

A powerful number eight, Ryu Holani made his debut for Japan back in 2008 against Kazakhstan. He has since gone on to win 40 caps, racking up an impressive 22 tries in the process. Born in Tonga, he was also included in the Barbarians squad in 2015 on their tour of Ireland and England.


Hooker    1.80m    105kg    21.01.1986
A trail-blazer in Japanese rugby, Shota Horie was the first player from the Brave Blossoms to play in Super Rugby when he joined the Melbourne Rebels in 2013. The experienced hooker made his debut back in 2009 against Canada and has seven Test tries to his name. He was part of the Japanese team that won the 2011 and 2014 Pacific Nations Cups.


Prop    1.85m    116kg    02.06.1990

A loosehead prop with plenty of promise, the Panasonic Wild Knights front-rower enjoyed a stint in Australia with the Melbourne Rebels in 2015, making one Super Rugby appearance. Inagaki's official Test debut for Japan came against Romania in Bucharest in November 2014.


Lock/Flank    1.91m     100kg    02.12.1980

One of the oldest players in Japan's squad at 34, Kobelco Steelers second-row Ito has plenty of experience in the game. Another lock who can also pack down as a flanker if required, Ito has been with the Steelers for the last five seasons. A regular start for Japan since 2014.


Lock/Flank    1.93m    106kg    24.05.1984

The 31-year-old was born in Dunedin but has played most of his rugby in Japan for Panasonic Wild Knights and most recently Canon Eagles. He plays lock or in the back row and has established himself as a regular in the international setup. Missed 2011's RWC due to injury.


Hooker    1.83m    114kg    15.07.1988

The youngest hooker in the three named by head coach Eddie Jones, Kizo made his international debut against Canada in November 2009. In the past year he has started six out of his last eight games for Japan but it's highly likely he'll be second choice to Shota Horie.


Flanker    1.88m    105kg    07.10.1988

Japan's captain for the Rugby World Cup has been a stand-out performer in Super Rugby for the Chiefs this past season. Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Leitch moved to Japan at age 15 to study and made his international debut aged 20 before going on to play at 2011's Rugby World Cup in his country of birth. A powerful yet mobile number eight who can also play on the flank, Leitch is a key player for Japan.


Number-eight     1.88m    112kg    11.01.1990

Of Tongan origin, Amanaki Mafi was given his Test oppportunity by Eddie Jones in 2014 on Japan's November tour to Europe. He made his debut in a win over Romania in Bucharest before earning his second cap the following in a defeat to Georgia in Tbilisi. Having shone with the NTT Shining Arcs, he was called up by both Japan and Tonga last year, making the decision to play for the Brave Blossoms.


  Lock/Flanker    1.93m    119kg    26.03.1987

Experienced second row Shinya Makabe was selected for Japan's World Cup squad after proving his fitness as he returned from injury. The Suntory Sungoliath skipper made his Test debut back in 2009 but only made his first start three years later. This will be his first World Cup, and he was included despite making his first appearance of 2015 off the bench against Uruguay just before the squad announcement.


Centre    1.76m    86kg    26.02.1993

The versatile Matsushima has travelled a lot despite his tender age, being born in South Africa, and having already spent time in France and of course Japan as well. Capable of playing across the backline, it is at centre where he has made the greatest impression for the Brave Blossoms. Not yet first choice for Japan, he made his Test debut in 2014 against the Philippines.


Prop    1.78m    113kg    04.06.1988

A virtual ever-present since making his debut in 2013, Masataka Mikami has been a key part of the Japanese scrum which has taken huge strides under scrum coach Marc dal Maso. After making a try-scoring debut against the Philippines, he went onto be part of the Japanese side that won the 2014 Pacific Nations Cup however he missed the tournament in 2015.


Lock    1.92m    102kg    06.05.1978

The veteran in Japan's squad at 37 years of age, Ono is going into his third Rugby World Cup after competing at the 2007 and 2011 tournaments. The lock plays his club rugby for Toshiba Brave Lupus and made his Test debut back in 2004. Unfortunately he is set to fall short of his 100th cap during this World Cup and it remains to be seen whether Japan's most-capped player will continue after the event in England.


Fly-half/Centre    1.71m    82kg    17.04.1987

Born in Japan, Kosei Ono actually came through the New Zealand system, playing in the same Christchurch Boys' High School team with the likes of Owen Franks and Colin Slade. He returned to Japan in 2007 making his international debut the same year at the age of 20. He was part of the Japanese squad at the 2007 World Cup, but missed out four years later under John Kirwan. He has featured regularly at fly-half under Eddie Jones over the last three seasons.


  Centre/Fly-half    1.83m    98kg    13.10.1987

A powerful New Zealand-born centre, Male Sau made his debut for Japan back in 2013 after five seasons in the Top League. He has since joined the Melbourne Rebels, making his debut for them in 2014 in Super Rugby. At Test level he has featured regularly at centre for Eddie Jones' side, including both wins in the warm-up series against Uruguay.


Centre/Fly-half    1.80m    92kg    09.01.1989

NEC Green Rockets centre Yu Tamura has been a regular fixture in the Japan side under Eddie Jones, and is included in the squad thanks to his versatility, being able to play both in the centres and at fly-half. He made his Test debut back in 2012 against Kazakhstan and was part of the Japan which made history by beating Wales a year later.


Scrum-half    1.66m    72kg     03.01.1985

Arguably the biggest star in Japanese rugby at the moment, Tanaka became a Super Rugby champion in 2015 as Aaron Smith's back-up at the Highlanders. He made his name at the 2011 World Cup with some fantastic performances, and followed that up with impressive displays in the ITM Cup and Super Rugby in New Zealand. He's just reaching his peak and will be first choice for Japan in the tournament.


Fly-half/Centre    1.80m    95kg    02.12.1989

Young fly-half Harumichi Tatekawa was handed his Test debut at the age of just 22 against Kazakhstan, and has already racked up nearly 40 caps for the Brave Blossoms. Capable of playing both at ten and in the centres, he came through at Kubota Spears before being recommended to Stephen Larkham at the Brumbies by Eddie Jones. While he didn't make his Super Rugby debut, it was a sign of the potential of the 25-year-old.


Lock/Flank    1.96m    108kg    16.04.1981

Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thompson embarked on a move to Japan in 2004 when he joined Panasonic Wild Knights. In 2006 Thompson switched to Kintetsu Liners and the lock has been there since. He made his Test bow against Hong Kong in 2007 and has since become a regular squad member for Japan with well over 50 caps to his name. He has started ten out of his last twelve outings for the Brave Blossoms.


Loose-forward    1.89m    110kg     13.12.1987

The Auckland-born loose forward is a powerful ball carrier who impressed when joining the Panasonic Wild Knights in 2011 and then went over to Suntory Sungoliath in 2013. Tui made his international debut for Japan against Tonga in June 2012 and this year played two games for the Reds in Super Rugby. Capped over 30 times, the hard-running Tui is expected to don the number eight jersey for Japan at the World Cup.


Fly-half/Centre    1.83m    90kg    26.12.1979

A former rugby league star, Craig Wing was an Australian international at league, where he played in four NRL Grand Finals as well as for New South Wales in the State of Origin. He switched to union in 2010, heading to Japan to play for the NTT Shining Arcs and then the Kobelco Steelers. After qualifying through residency he made his Test debut in 2013, and after a long period out in 2014, he returned to the squad in 2015 in time for the World Cup.


Wing    1.81m    90kg    26.07.1985

A star of Sevens initially, Yamada made his debut in that format back in 2006, helping Japan to victory in the Asian Games. His debut in XVs had to wait a little longer, with Eddie Jones giving him his chance in 2013. He joined the Western Force for the 2015 Super Rugby season but did not play a game for the Australian side.


Prop    1.83m    120kg    01.01.1986

A key member of the Japanese pack, tighthead Hiroshi Yamashita has battled with Kensuke Hatakeyama to establish himself as first choice with the Brave Blossoms. After making his debut in 2009 against Kazakhstan, he then had a three-year absence from the national side until coming back into favour in 2012. While he was often used off the bench, he became a regular starter in 2015 during the Pacific Nations Cup.


Hooker    1.73m    105kg    21.01.1984

Toshiba Brave Lupus hooker Hiroki Yuhara made his Test debut for Japan back in 2010 away in South Korea. A fringe player for the Brave Blossoms, he has struggled to dislodge Shota Horie from the starting role in the team, and has had to bide his time. He was part of the Japan squad that went to the last World Cup, playing one match as he came off the bench against the All Blacks.