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.
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.
- 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
- 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.