Rugby Veteran Leitch Returns After Suspension to Lead Japan Against Italy

Experienced player Michael Leitch is set to make a comeback for Japan following his two-match ban as they gear up for a World Cup warm-up clash with Italy.

Japan’s seasoned rugby campaigner, Michael Leitch, is poised to rejoin the national squad after serving a suspension that kept him out of action for two matches. The eagerly anticipated return comes as Japan concludes its World Cup preparation with a match against Italy in Treviso on Saturday.

Leitch’s Comeback and Lineup Changes:
Michael Leitch, a seasoned presence in the rugby scene, will mark his fourth appearance in a World Cup, returning to the lineup after a recent two-match suspension. Coach Jamie Joseph announced a total of eight changes to the team, a considerable shakeup since their last encounter against Fiji earlier this month in Tokyo.

Challenging Performance Record:
Japan’s recent performance has been met with mixed results. Despite their victorious bout against Tonga in late July, the team faced defeats at the hands of Samoa, Fiji, and a New Zealand XV in previous preparatory matches. The 35-12 loss to Fiji and other setbacks have underscored the team’s need to regain momentum before the upcoming World Cup.

Leitch’s Role and Suspension:
Leitch will return to his role as the blindside flank, donning his 80th test cap following the suspension. His absence was a result of a red card he received for a high tackle during the 24-22 loss against Samoa on July 22.

Strategic Changes and Team Composition:
While captain Kazuki Himeno retains his place at No. 8, there are noteworthy changes in the team composition. Jack Cornelsen remains in the lineup, shifting positions from flank to lock. A new halfback pairing sees Yutaka Nagare joining Lee Seung-sin at flyhalf.

Mentally Prepared for Challenges Ahead:
Coach Joseph emphasizes the team’s readiness for the upcoming game and the larger World Cup challenge. The mental shift post-squad selection allows players to focus solely on the game, leaving behind the anxiety of World Cup selection.

Journey Forward:
Following the match against Italy, the Japanese team will transition to their World Cup base in Toulouse. Their inaugural Pool D match is set against Chile on September 10, marking a crucial step in their World Cup campaign.

Team Lineup:

  • Fullback: Kotaro Matsushima
  • Wings: Semisi Masirewa, Jone Naikabula
  • Centres: Dylan Riley, Tomoki Osada
  • Flyhalf: Lee Seung-sin
  • Scrumhalf: Yutaka Nagare
  • Captain and No. 8: Kazuki Himeno
  • Flankers: Shota Fukui, Michael Leitch
  • Locks: Uwe Helu, Jack Cornelsen
  • Props: Koo Ji-won, Shota Horie, Craig Millar

Reserve Players:

  • Atsushi Sakate, Keita Inagaki, Asaeli Ai Valu, Amanaki Saumaki, Ben Gunter, Naoto Saito, Rikiya Matsuda, Ryoto Nakamura.

In this crucial phase of their preparation, Japan seeks to strike a balance between experience and strategic adjustments, aligning themselves for a promising World Cup journey.

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