Japan national rugby union team

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Japan
Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s)Cherry Blossoms/Brave Blossoms/Sakuras
EmblemSakura
UnionJapan Rugby Football Union
Head coachJamie Joseph
CaptainMichael Leitch
Most capsHitoshi Ono (98)
Top scorerAyumu Goromaru (708)
Top try scorerDaisuke Ohata (69)
Home stadiumJapan National Stadium
Chichibunomiya Stadium
First colours
Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current10 (as of 8 November 2021)
Highest7 (2019)
Lowest20 (2003, 2006)
First international
Japan 9–8 Canada 
(Osaka, Japan; 31 January 1932)
Biggest win
Japan 155–3 Chinese Taipei 
(Tokyo, Japan; 1 July 2002)
Biggest defeat
 New Zealand 145–17 Japan
(Bloemfontein, South Africa; 4 June 1995)
World Cup
Appearances9 (First in 1987)
Best resultQuarterfinals (2019)
Websiteen.rugby-japan.jp
(in English)

The Japan national rugby union team, often known as the Cherry Blossoms, Sakura, and more recently The Brave Blossoms (ブレイブ・ブロッサムズ - Bureibu burossamuzu) is traditionally the strongest rugby union power in Asia and has enjoyed and endured mixed results against non-Asian teams over the years. Rugby union in Japan is administered by the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU), which was founded in 1926. They compete annually in the Pacific Nations Cup and previously in the Asia Rugby Championship. They have also participated in every Rugby World Cup since the tournament began in 1987.

Rugby was first played in Japan's treaty ports as early as 1866. Popular participation by local university teams was established in 1899 and Japan's first recorded international match was a match against a Canadian team in 1932. Notable games for Japan include a victory over the Junior All Blacks in 1968, and a narrow 6–3 loss to England in 1971. Famous wins by Japan include a 28–24 victory over a Scotland XV in 1989 and a 23–8 victory over Wales in 2013. In 2011, Japan displayed its progress by winning the 2011 IRB Pacific Nations Cup, played against Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Further progress was displayed in 2014 when Japan completed a string of ten consecutive test wins (a record for a tier 2 team) to rank in the world's top 10 teams.[1] This continued into 2015 where they produced the first of their three biggest upsets when, in a Rugby World Cup pool match against South Africa, they won 34–32.[2][3][4]

In the years between, Japan faced quality opposition, playing relatively well with solid results including a tie against France, and a narrow loss to Wales at Cardiff. Their second shock win was a 19–12 defeat of world number-two ranked Ireland in a 2019 Rugby World Cup pool game. Emerging undefeated from the tournament's pool stage after a 28–21 victory over Scotland, Japan made their first-ever World Cup quarter-final appearance, going down 3–26 to eventual world champions South Africa.[5][6]

History[edit]

Rugby football game in Yokohama, 1874

The first recorded instance of a team being established and rugby being played in Japan was in 1866 with the founding of the Yokohama Foot Ball Club. Games, mainly between service personnel, were played on the Garrison Parade Ground in Yamate, Yokohama.[7] In 1874 records also illustrate British sailors staging a game in Yokohama. Other games were played at other treaty ports such as Kobe between teams of long-term foreign residents and visiting ships' crews and garrisons, but they rarely involved Japanese players. The date of local Japanese participation in the sport is most frequently cited as 1899, when students at Keio University were introduced to the game by Professor Edward Bramwell Clarke and Ginnosuke Tanaka both graduates of Cambridge University.

The formation of a national team and effectively Japan's first international match took place in Osaka on 31 January 1932 when a trade delegation from Canada to Japan supported an overseas tour by the Canada national rugby union team. The Japanese won this first match 9–8. In a second test match in Tokyo 11 days later again the Japanese side beat the Canadians 38–5.[8]

Japan beat the Junior All Blacks 23–19 in 1968 after losing the first four matches on a tour of New Zealand, but they won the last five. The Japanese (coached by Waseda University Professor Onishi Tetsunosuke) lost by just 3–6 to England in Tokyo on 29 September 1971 in the RFU's centenary year. The 1973 Japan rugby union tour of Wales, England and France was less successful with the side winning only two of their eleven matches, and losing the international matches against Wales and France. Ten years later Japan gave Wales a fright in losing by a slim five-point margin, 24–29, at Cardiff Arms Park on 2 October 1983.

On 28 May 1989, a strong Japan coached by Hiroaki Shukuzawa defeated an uncapped Scotland, missing nine British Lions on tour in Australia, for the first time at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, 28–24. The Japan team included such Kobe Steel stalwarts as centre Seiji Hirao (captain), and locks Atsushi Oyagi and Toshiyuki Hayashi (38 Japan caps and a member of Oxford University's all-time best XV). Sinali Latu at No. 8 was then a fourth year student at Daito Bunka University, and speedy Yoshihito Yoshida on the wing (no. 14) was a third year at Meiji University. Scotland missed an incredible seven penalties and refused the kicking tee which was generously offered – as a surviving video of the game shows. It was almost the same Japanese team which defeated Zimbabwe in RWC1991.

Under Shogo Mukai (2001–2003)[edit]

After Hirao resigned, Toshiba Brave Lupus coach Shogo Mukai was appointed in March 2001 to lead Japan up to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. After mixed fortunes in his first two years in charge, Japan put in some impressive performances at the tournament with good efforts against Scotland and France, nevertheless they still left the tournament having failed to reach their target of winning some matches but still won admirers for their exciting brand of play. Mukai left his post after the tournament to spend more time with his family.

Under Mitsutake Hagimoto (2004–2005)[edit]

After Shogo Mukai left after the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the JRFU initially tried to appoint Eddie Jones from his post with Australia but were unsuccessful and instead appointed Mitsutake Hagimoto in March 2004 after he won the inaugural Top League with the Kobelco Steelers. Under Hagimoto, Japan decided they would not select foreign born players after Mukai had been criticised for playing too many at the World Cup.

Hagimoto's first match in charge was a disappointing draw with Korea, but his first few matches in charge after that were promising with wins over Russia and Canada to win the Super Powers Cup and pushed Italy close losing 32–19.

However, in November 2004, Japan went on a disastrous tour to Europe where they were embarrassingly thrashed 100–8 by Scotland and 98–0 by Wales and also were comfortably defeated by Romania. Japan's performances were described as "pathetic", and the squad was called "a joke" with some key players ignored or not given permission to travel.

This disastrous tour forced a rethink from Hagimoto and foreign born players were brought back into the side in 2005, but after losing twice to Ireland in June he was sacked and with just 5 wins from 15 matches was the least successful coach for Japan in the professional era.

Under Jean-Pierre Élissalde (2005–2006)[edit]

Japan play Tonga at Honjo stadium on 4 June 2006

After Hagimoto left his post at the end of June 2005, Jean-Pierre Élissalde who had been appointed backs coach three months earlier took full charge and became the first foreigner to be the head coach for Japan. His first match in charge was a 44–29 win over Spain in November 2005.

In 2006, despite a disappointing campaign in the inaugural Pacific Nations Cup in June where Japan lost all their matches, and also lost to heavily to Italy 52–6, Élissalde was backed to lead the side to the 2007 Rugby World Cup. But Élissalde was later sacked in September after he took on a job with Bayonne without consulting the JRFU and then refused to give up his job with them.[9] Assistant coach Osamu Ota took over as caretaker coach for two Rugby World Cup qualifiers in November 2006.

Under John Kirwan (2007–2011)[edit]

Japan plays Australia A on 8 June 2008

John Kirwan was appointed head coach on in October 2006 after Elissalde was sacked. He initially worked as an advisor to caretaker coach Osamu Ota before taking over the job completely in 2007.

After starting with large wins over the Asian opposition, Japan only won one of their remaining 10 fixtures in 2007, although in the 2007 Rugby World Cup they did gain a draw with a last minute touchline conversion from Shotaro Onishi against Canada to end a long losing streak of World Cup matches stretching back to 1991.

Results began to pick up after the 2007 World Cup and Kirwan led Japan up to a high of 13th in the IRB Rankings and to win their first ever Pacific Nations Cup title in 2011 after they beat Fiji away for the first ever time in Japan's history.

However, despite more positive results in between World Cups, Japan had a disappointing 2011 Rugby World Cup, losing 31–18 to Tonga who they had beaten four times in a row since 2008, and drawing again to Canada who they had beaten 46–8 and 27–6 in 2009, and Japan left the World Cup winless meaning they still had not won a match at the tournament since 1991. Kirwan came under pressure after the tournament and he resigned from his post after his contract came to the end at the end of the year.

The tenure of Kirwan as coach was notable for a large number of imports he selected. Players who originated from New Zealand such as James Arlidge, Bryce Robins, Shaun Webb, Ryan Nicholas, Luke Thompson or Tonga such as Alisi Tupuailei and Sione Vatuvei all featured prominently under Kirwan. The large percentage of foreigners in the national team also caused criticism for Kirwan. However, despite failing to bring Japan a World Cup win, Kirwan left his post as the most successful Japan coach of the professional era with a win rate of 58.18% from 55 matches.

Under Eddie Jones (2012–2015)[edit]

Kirwan chose not to renew his contract as head coach when it expired at the end of 2011, and the Japan Rugby Football Union announced that former Australia coach Eddie Jones would be his successor.[10] Jones stated that his intention was to take the Japanese national team into the top 10 on the international rankings, and that they must develop a style of play to allow them to win games against teams such as Scotland.

Jones made his debut as Japan head coach against Kazakhstan. He had selected a total of 10 uncapped players out of the 22 selected players. They went on to win the match 87–0. They then had a big win over United Arab Emirates where young 18-year-old Yoshikazu Fujita set a new Asian Five Nations record for the most tries in a single match with a total of 6. This was also Fujita's international debut.[11]

In 2013, Jones led Japan to their sixth consecutive championship win in the Asian Five Nations, where Japan achieved a tournament record score of 121–0 against the Philippines. In May, the nation lost their opening match of the 2013 IRB Pacific Nations Cup to Tonga, followed by a defeat to Fiji in the second round. Following these matches, Japan faced a 2-test series against Wales. Japan lost narrowly, 18–22, in the first test, but won the second test 23–8, and the series ended in a 1–1 draw. This was the first time that Japan had recorded a victory over the Welsh.

On 16 October 2013, Jones was hospitalised after having a suspected stroke and was released from hospital 2 days later on 18 October 2013.[12][13] After his release from hospital, it was announced that Jones would miss Japan's 2013 end-of-year rugby union tests against New Zealand, Scotland, Gloucester, Russia and Spain, and former Australia skills coach and current technical adviser for Japan Scott Wisemantel would interim coach Japan for their 2013 end-of-year rugby union tests.[14]

Jamie Joseph giving a speech at a Sunwolves match on 12 May 2018

On 19 September 2015, Japan stunned South Africa by a last minute try from Karne Hesketh to win 34–32 in their opening group pool game at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Brighton, England. BBC reported the win as "arguably the biggest upset in rugby union history".[15] In 2015, Japan became the first team in World Cup history to win three pool games but still be eliminated at the group stage, due to their heavy loss to Scotland.[16]

Under Jamie Joseph (2016–present)[edit]

Jamie Joseph, former coach of New Zealand's Highlanders Super Rugby team and the Māori All Blacks, took over as head coach for Japan (and the Sunwolves Super Rugby team) in 2016. In the 2017 Asia Rugby Championship, Japan sealed their twelfth consecutive Asia Rugby Championship, winning all four games. They went on to defeat Romania 33–21 in the 2017 June rugby union tests, but lost to Ireland 2–0, during their first test series since 2005, losing the first test 50–22 and the second 35–13. In November 2017, Joseph led his side to a single win and a draw in four games. They started their End-of-year series with two consecutive home losses, a 27–47 loss to a World XV side and a 30–63 loss to Australia. Japan's first win came against Tonga 39–6 in Toulouse, France, before going on to draw with France 23–23, which was the first time that these two nations had drawn with one another.

During the 2018 June tests, Joseph led Japan to a 1–all series draw with Italy, winning the first test 34–17, and losing the second 25–22. The team then beat Georgia 28–0 at the Toyota Stadium.

In 2019, Japan won the Pacific Nations Cup with wins against Fiji, Tonga and the United States, with no losses.

Japan hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and the team repeated their feat of a shock win in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup, this time beating world No. 2-ranked Ireland 19–12 at Shizuoka Stadium in Fukuroi, Shizuoka[17][18] They reached the quarter-finals for the first time in the team's history after beating Scotland 28–21 at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama that was battered by Typhoon Hagibis only the night before.[19]

Kits[edit]

Japan traditionally plays with white and red hooped shirts (with white collar and cuffs) with a Sakura embroidered on the chest, paired with white shorts and white socks with red splashes. Between 2003 and 2011, the shirt was predominantly red with two white parallel hoops on the chest with white accents, sometimes with black or navy socks and shorts.

Since its first test against Canada in 1930, Japan played with the traditional hooped red and white shirts, the emblem on the shirt originally depicted the Sakura as "bud, half-open and full-bloomed".[20] The current version of the emblem, depicting three full-bloomed Sakura, was dated 1952, when Japan played against Oxford University XV[21][22] at Hanazono, Higashi-Osaka, on 1 October 1952.[23]

On 4 July 2019 the Japan Rugby Football Union on Thursday unveiled the national team's jersey for this year's Rugby World Cup, the shirt featuring a samurai helmet motif representing the tradition of Japan's warrior spirit. The combination of Samurai and Sakura (Cherry Blossom) has long been linked in Japanese culture.

The away kit usually consist of a navy blue uniform, white or navy shorts and navy blue socks, sometimes with white collar or panels, or black. The kit supplier since the 1997 is Canterbury. Before that,, the kits were manufactured by Japanese company Sceptre between 1987 and 1995[24][25] and in 1982, by Suzuki Sports.[26] Currently, the jersey sponsors are Lipovitan D (in the front) and Toshiba (in the back). Previously, between 1997 and 2001, the shirt sponsor was Japan Telecom.

Home kit[edit]

1960s–2002
2003–2006
2007–2009
2011–2014
2015–2018
2019–present

Away kit[edit]

1960s–2002
2003–2006
2007–2009
2011–2014
2015–2018
2019–present

List of matches[edit]

Wins against Tier 1 nations[edit]

Additionally, Japan tied  France 23–23 in Paris, 25 November 2017.[27]

3 June 1968[28] Junior All Blacks  19–23 Japan Japan New Zealand Athletic Park, Wellington  
Try: Mike O'Callaghan
??? (2)
Con: ??? (2)
Pen: ??? (2)
Try: Yoshihiro Sakata (4)
Akira Yokoi
Tadayuki Ito
Con: Tsutomu Katsuraguchi
Pen: Tsutomu Katsuraguchi
Attendance: 25,000
Referee: RC Fenton
28 May 1989 Japan Japan 28–24  Scotland XV Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo  
15 September 1998 Japan Japan 44–29  Argentina Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo  
Try: McCormick
Ohata
Watanabe (2)
Con: Murata (3)
Pen: Murata (4)
Drop: Ken Iwabuchi (2)
Report Try: Corleto
Ledesma
Martín
Pfister
Con: Fuselli
Lobrauco
Drop: Fuselli
Attendance: 20,000
Referee: Italy Giovanni Morandin (Italy)
15 June 2013 Japan Japan 23–8  Wales Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo  
14:00 JST (UTC+9) Try: Wing 49' c
Broadhurst 60' c
Con: Goromaru (2/2) 49', 61'
Pen: Goromaru (3/3) 14', 34', 76'
Report Try: Prydie 44' m
Pen: Biggar (1/2) 21'
Attendance: 21,062
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
21 June 2014 Japan Japan 26–23  Italy Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo  
14:00 JST (UTC+09) Try: Yamada 4' c
Sa'u 59' c
Con: Goromaru (2/2) 5', 60'
Pen: Goromaru (4/5) 13', 22', 42', 48'
Report
(In Italian)[29]
Try: Penalty try 17' c
Barbieri 74' c
Con: Orquera (1/1) 17'
Allan (1/1) 75'
Pen: Orquera (3/3) 7', 35', 52'
Attendance: 13,816
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
19 September 2015 South Africa  32–34  Japan England Falmer Stadium, Brighton  
16:45 Try: Louw 18' c
B. Du Plessis 33' m
De Jager 44' c
Strauss 62' c
Con: Lambie (2/3) 19', 45'
Pollard (1/1) 63'
Pen: Lambie (1/1) 54'
Pollard (1/1) 73'
Try: Leitch 30' c
Goromaru 69' c
Hesketh 80' m
Con: Goromaru (2/3) 31', 70'
Pen: Goromaru (5/6) 8', 43', 49', 53', 60'
Attendance: 29,290
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
9 June 2018 Japan  34–17  Italy Japan Oita Bank Dome, Oita  
14:45 JST (UTC+09) Try: Mafi 17' c
Fukuoka 27' c
Lemeki 60' c
Matsushima 65' c
Con: Tamura (4/4) 19', 29', 62', 67'
Pen: Tamura (2/3) 33', 57'
Try: Pasquali 14' c
Steyn 35' c
Con: Allan (2/2) 16', 37'
Pen: Allan (1/1) 51'
Attendance: 25,824
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
28 September 2019 Japan  19–12  Ireland Japan Shizuoka Stadium, Fukuroi  
16:15 JST (UTC+09) Try: Fukuoka 59' c
Con: Tamura (1/1) 61'
Pen: Tamura (4/6) 18', 34', 40', 72'
Try: Ringrose 14' m
Rob Kearney 21' c
Con: Carty (1/2) 22'
Attendance: 47,813
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
13 October 2019 Japan  28–21  Scotland Japan International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama  
16:15 JST (UTC+09) Try: Matsushima 18' c
Inagaki 26' c
Fukuoka (2) 40' c, 43' c
Con: Tamura (4/4) 20', 27', 40+2', 44'
Report Try: Russell 7' c
Nel 50' c
Fagerson 55' c
Con: Laidlaw (2/2) 8', 51'
Russell (1/1) 56'
Attendance: 67,666
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)

Overall[edit]

Top 20 as of 21 March 2022[30]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 Steady  South Africa 090.61
2 Increase1  France 088.88
3 Decrease1  New Zealand 088.75
4 Steady  Ireland 088.22
5 Steady  England 084.50
6 Steady  Australia 083.92
7 Steady  Scotland 081.80
8 Increase1  Argentina 080.58
9 Decrease1  Wales 079.28
10 Steady  Japan 078.26
11 Steady  Fiji 076.62
12 Increase1  Georgia 073.78
13 Decrease1  Samoa 073.59
14 Steady  Italy 072.33
15 Steady  Spain 068.26
16 Steady  Tonga 067.72
17 Increase1  Romania 066.95
18 Decrease1  United States 066.54
19 Steady  Uruguay 066.40
20 Steady  Portugal 065.72
21 Steady  Canada 061.80
22 Steady  Hong Kong 061.23
23 Steady  Chile 059.88
24 Steady  Namibia 059.72
25 Steady  Russia 058.06
26 Steady  Netherlands 056.31
27 Steady  Belgium 055.74
28 Increase1  Brazil 053.31
29 Increase1  South Korea 053.11
30 Decrease2  Poland 052.91
* Change from the previous week
Japan's historical rankings
See or edit source data.
Source: World Rugby[30]
Graph updated to 21 March 2022

Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by a Japan national XV to 18 June 2022.[31]

Opponent Played Won Lost Drawn Win % For Aga Diff
Arabian Gulf 3 3 0 0 100.0% 256 20 +236
 Argentina 6 1 5 0 26.7% 159 259 −100
 Australia 6 0 6 0 0.0% 111 315 −204
 Australia A 4 0 4 0 0.0% 51 242 −191
Australia Australian Universities 6 2 4 0 33.3% 60 90 −30
Australia Emerging Wallabies 2 1 0 1 50.0% 41 39 +2
British & Irish Lions 1 0 1 0 0.0% 10 28 -18
 Canada 25 15 8 2 60.0% 612 581 +31
Canada British Columbia Bears 6 2 2 2 33.3% 103 82 +21
 Chinese Taipei 4 4 0 0 100.0% 474 27 +447
 England 2 0 2 0 0.0% 22 95 −73
 England XV 5 0 5 0 0.0% 71 131 −60
 England Saxons 2 0 2 0 0.0% 30 92 −62
England England Students 1 0 1 0 0.0% 0 43 −43
England England Under-23's 2 0 2 0 0.0% 25 77 −52
England Cambridge University 4 1 3 0 25.0% 52 110 −58
England Oxford University 4 0 4 0 0.0% 28 130 −102
England Oxford and Cambridge 3 0 3 0 0.0% 30 113 −83
 Fiji 18 4 14 0 22.2% 346 488 −142
 France 4 0 3 1 0.0% 91 151 −60
 France XV 6 0 6 0 0.0% 31 272 −241
 Georgia 6 5 1 0 83.3% 150 96 +54
 Hong Kong 29 24 4 1 82.8% 1175 370 +805
 Ireland 10 1 9 0 10% 173 447 −274
 Ireland XV 2 0 2 0 0.0% 28 81 −53
Ireland Ireland Students 1 0 1 0 0.0% 12 24 −12
 Italy 8 2 6 0 25.0% 146 241 −95
 Kazakhstan 5 5 0 0 100.0% 418 23 +395
 South Korea 36 29 6 1 80.1% 1614 517 +1097
 Netherlands 1 0 1 0 0.0% 13 15 −2
 New Zealand 4 0 4 0 0.0% 61 351 −290
 New Zealand XV 2 0 2 0 0.0% 4 180 −176
 Junior All Blacks 8 1 7 0 12.5% 98 337 −239
 Māori 1 0 1 0 0.0% 22 65 −43
New Zealand New Zealand Universities 15 2 11 2 13.3% 221 417 −196
 Philippines 2 2 0 0 100.0% 220 10 +210
 Portugal 1 1 0 0 100.0% 38 25 +13
Australia Queensland Reds 1 0 1 0 0.0% 6 42 −36
 Romania 6 5 1 0 83.3% 152 119 +33
 Russia 7 6 1 0 83.3% 299 127 +172
 Samoa 16 5 11 0 31.3% 311 501 −190
 Scotland 9 1 8 0 11.1% 132 363 −231
 Scotland XV 4 1 3 0 25.0% 64 165 −101
 Singapore 1 1 0 0 100.0% 45 15 +30
 South Africa 3 1 2 0 33.4% 44 99 −55
 Spain 3 3 0 0 100.0% 114 43 +71
 Sri Lanka 3 3 0 0 100.0% 266 29 +237
 Thailand 1 1 0 0 100.0% 42 11 +31
 Tonga 18 9 9 0 50.0% 459 453 +6
 United Arab Emirates 3 3 0 0 100.0% 310 6 +304
 United States 24 10 13 1 41.7% 560 675 −115
 Uruguay 4 3 1 0 75.0% 122 47 +75
 Wales 10 1 9 0 10.0% 159 526 −367
 Wales XV 4 0 4 0 0.0% 56 229 −173
Wales Welsh Clubs 1 0 1 0 0.0% 9 63 −54
 Zimbabwe 1 1 0 0 100.0% 52 8 +44
Total 364 159 194 11 43.68% 10198 10105 +93

Coaches[edit]

Current squad[edit]

On 31 May, a 34-man squad was named for Japan's 2-test series against Uruguay and their 2-test series against France.

On 7 June, Yutaka Nagare withdrew from the squad due to injury and Toshiya Takahashi was called up as his replacement.

On 17 June, Craig Millar withdrew from the squad due to injury and Shogo Miura was called up as his replacement. Also called up were, Takayasu Tsuji, Wimpie van der Walt and Tevita Tatafu.

On 27 June, Kaito Shigeno joined up with the squad ahead of Japan's 2-test series against France replacing Toshiya Takahashi and Amanaki Saumaki also withdrew due to injury.

Caps updated: 27 June 2022

Player Position Date of birth (age) Caps Club/province
Daigo Hashimoto Hooker (1994-01-28) 28 January 1994 (age 28) 2 Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Shota Horie Hooker (1986-01-21) 21 January 1986 (age 36) 67 Saitama Wild Knights
Atsushi Sakate Hooker (1993-06-21) 21 June 1993 (age 29) 28 Saitama Wild Knights
Asaeli Ai Valu Prop (1989-05-07) 7 May 1989 (age 33) 21 Saitama Wild Knights
Keita Inagaki Prop (1990-06-02) 2 June 1990 (age 32) 40 Saitama Wild Knights
Shinnosuke Kakinaga Prop (1991-12-19) 19 December 1991 (age 30) 20 Tokyo Sungoliath
Yusuke Kizu Prop (1995-03-12) 12 March 1995 (age 27) 4 Toyota Verblitz
Shogo Miura Prop (1995-06-08) 8 June 1995 (age 27) 9 Toyota Verblitz
Yukio Morikawa Prop (1993-02-06) 6 February 1993 (age 29) 0 Tokyo Sungoliath
Warner Dearns Lock (2002-04-11) 11 April 2002 (age 20) 2 Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Takayasu Tsuji Lock (1995-10-28) 28 October 1995 (age 26) 0 Tokyo Sungoliath
Wimpie van der Walt Lock (1989-01-06) 6 January 1989 (age 33) 19 NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes Osaka
Sanaila Waqa Lock (1995-07-17) 17 July 1995 (age 26) 1 Hanazono Kintetsu Liners
Jack Cornelsen Back row (1994-10-13) 13 October 1994 (age 27) 7 Saitama Wild Knights
Masato Furukawa Back row (1996-12-06) 6 December 1996 (age 25) 3 Toyota Verblitz
Ben Gunter Back row (1997-10-24) 24 October 1997 (age 24) 3 Saitama Wild Knights
Lappies Labuschagné Back row (1989-01-11) 11 January 1989 (age 33) 13 Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay
Michael Leitch Back row (1988-10-07) 7 October 1988 (age 33) 73 Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Faulua Makisi Back row (1997-01-20) 20 January 1997 (age 25) 3 Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay
Tevita Tatafu Back row (1996-01-02) 2 January 1996 (age 26) 10 Tokyo Sungoliath
Daiki Nakajima Scrum-half (1996-03-25) 25 March 1996 (age 26) 3 Kobelco Kobe Steelers
Naoto Saito Scrum-half (1997-08-26) 26 August 1997 (age 24) 7 Tokyo Sungoliath
Kaito Shigeno Scrum-half (1990-11-21) 21 November 1990 (age 31) 14 Toyota Verblitz
Hayata Nakao Fly-half (1995-01-20) 20 January 1995 (age 27) 0 Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Takuya Yamasawa Fly-half (1994-09-21) 21 September 1994 (age 27) 4 Saitama Wild Knights
Lee Seung-Sin Fly-half (2001-01-13) 13 January 2001 (age 21) 1 Kobelco Kobe Steelers
Yusuke Kajimura Centre (1995-09-13) 13 September 1995 (age 26) 2 Yokohama Canon Eagles
Shogo Nakano Centre (1997-06-11) 11 June 1997 (age 25) 3 Tokyo Sungoliath
Dylan Riley Centre (1997-05-02) 2 May 1997 (age 25) 5 Saitama Wild Knights
Siosaia Fifita Wing (1998-12-20) 20 December 1998 (age 23) 7 Hanazono Kintetsu Liners
Jone Naikabula Wing (1994-03-12) 12 March 1994 (age 28) 0 Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Taichi Takahashi Wing (1996-05-24) 24 May 1996 (age 26) 0 Toyota Verblitz
Gerhard van den Heever Wing (1989-04-13) 13 April 1989 (age 33) 1 Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay
Rakuhei Yamashita Wing (1991-01-30) 30 January 1991 (age 31) 0 Kobelco Kobe Steelers
Ryuji Noguchi Fullback (1995-07-15) 15 July 1995 (age 26) 14 Saitama Wild Knights
Ryohei Yamanaka Fullback (1988-06-22) 22 June 1988 (age 34) 22 Kobelco Kobe Steelers

Notable former players[edit]

Player records (career)[edit]

Most matches[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Start Sub Won Lost Draw %
1 Hitoshi Ono Lock 2004–2016 98 78 20 60 35 3 63
2 Hirotoki Onozawa Wing 2001–2013 81 73 8 41 37 3 52
3 Yukio Motoki Centre 1991–2005 79 73 6 31 47 1 40
4 Kensuke Hatakeyama Prop 2008–2016 78 57 21 50 27 1 65
5 Fumiaki Tanaka Scrum-half 2008–2019 75 60 15 46 27 2 63
6 Michael Leitch Flanker 2008– 73 67 6 48 23 2 67
7 Luke Thompson Lock 2007–2019 71 59 12 44 25 2 63
8 Yu Tamura Fly-half 2012– 69 53 16 42 26 1 64
9 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2005–2014 68 57 11 41 26 1 61
10 Shota Horie Hooker 2009– 67 59 8 44 21 2 67

Last updated: Japan vs Uruguay, 25 June 2022. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[34]

Most tries[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Start Sub Pts Tries
1 Daisuke Ohata Wing 1996–2006 58 55 3 345 69
2 Hirotoki Onozawa Wing 2001–2013 81 73 8 275 55
3 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2005–2014 68 57 11 160 32
4 Terunori Masuho Wing 1991–2001 47 46 1 147 29
5 Yoshikazu Fujita Wing 2012–2017 30 20 10 130 26
6 Kenki Fukuoka Wing 2013–2019 38 31 7 125 25
7 Ryu Koliniasi Holani Number 8 2008–2016 44 38 6 110 22
Kotaro Matsushima Fullback 2014– 44 39 5 110 22
9 Alisi Tupuailei Centre 2009–2011 20 13 7 105 21
10 Toru Kurihara Wing 2000–2003 28 23 5 347 20
Michael Leitch Flanker 2008– 73 67 6 100 20

Last updated: Japan vs Uruguay, 25 June 2022. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[35]

Most points[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop
1 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 2005–2015 56 708 18 162 98 0
2 Keiji Hirose Fly-half 1994–2005 40 422 5 77 79 2
3 Toru Kurihara Wing 2000–2003 28 347 20 71 35 0
4 Daisuke Ohata Wing 1996–2006 58 345 69 0 0 0
5 Yu Tamura Fly-half 2012– 69 303 5 64 50 0
6 James Arlidge Fly-half 2007–2011 32 286 8 78 28 2
7 Hirotoki Onozawa Wing 2001–2013 81 275 55 0 0 0
8 Shaun Webb Fly-half 2008–2011 35 198 18 45 6 0
9 Ryan Nicholas Centre 2008–2012 38 193 9 53 14 0
10 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2005–2014 68 160 32 0 0 0

Last updated: Japan vs Uruguay, 25 June 2022. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[36]

Most matches as captain[edit]

# Player Pos Span Mat Won Lost Draw % Pts Tries
1 Takuro Miuchi Number 8 2002–2008 45 17 27 1 38.88 30 6
2 Michael Leitch Flanker 2014– 35 22 12 1 68.18 55 11
3 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2008–2013 34 21 12 1 63.23 110 22
4 Toshiaki Hirose Wing 2012–2013 18 13 5 0 72.22 45 9
5 Masahiro Kunda Hooker 1993–1998 14 5 9 0 35.71 0 0
6 Yukio Motoki Centre 1996–1997 12 4 8 0 33.33 5 1
7 Seiji Hirao Centre 1989–1991 11 5 6 0 45.45 0 0
8 Toshiyuki Hayashi Lock 1986–1987 10 1 8 1 15.00 0 0
Andrew McCormick Centre 1998–1999 10 4 6 0 40.00 5 1
Akira Yokoi Centre 1970–1974 10 3 6 1 35.00 0 0

Last updated: Japan vs Uruguay, 25 June 2022. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[37]

Player records (match)[edit]

Most points in a match[edit]

# Player Pos Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop Opposition Venue Date
1 Toru Kurihara Wing 60 6 15 0 0  Chinese Taipei Chinese Taipei Tainan 21 July 2002
2 Daisuke Ohata Wing 40 8 0 0 0  Chinese Taipei Japan Tokyo 21 July 2002
3 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 37 1 16 0 0  Sri Lanka Japan Nagoya 10/05/2014
4 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 36 1 14 1 0  Philippines Japan Fukuoka 20 April 2013
5 Toru Kurihara Wing 35 2 11 1 0  South Korea Japan Tokyo 16 June 2002
6 Keiji Hirose Fly-half 34 1 1 9 0  Tonga Japan Tokyo 08/05/1999
7 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 32 2 11 0 0  Kazakhstan Kazakhstan Almaty 28 April 2012
8 Keiji Hirose Fly-half 31 0 11 3 0  Hong Kong Japan Tokyo 08/05/2005
9 4 players on 30 points

Last updated: Japan vs Uruguay, 25 June 2022. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[38]

Most tries in a match[edit]

# Player Pos Pts Tries Conv Pens Drop Opposition Venue Date
1 Daisuke Ohata Wing 40 8 0 0 0  Chinese Taipei Japan Tokyo 07/07/2002
2 Toru Kurihara Wing 60 6 15 0 0  Chinese Taipei Chinese Taipei Tainan 21 July 2002
Daisuke Ohata Wing 30 6 0 0 0  Hong Kong Japan Tokyo 08/05/2005
Yoshikazu Fujita Wing 30 6 0 0 0  United Arab Emirates Japan Fukuoka 05/05/2012
5 Terunori Masuho Wing 25 5 0 0 0  Chinese Taipei Singapore Singapore 27 October 1998
Kosuke Endo Wing 25 5 0 0 0  South Korea South Korea Daegu 01/05/2010
Alisi Tupuailei Centre 25 5 0 0 0  Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Colombo 21 May 2011
Kentaro Kodama Wing 25 5 0 0 0  South Korea Japan Kanagawa 30 April 2016
9 10 players on 4 tries

Last updated: Japan vs Uruguay, 25 June 2022. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[39]

Tournament history[edit]

Rugby World Cup[edit]

Japan has participated in the Rugby World Cup since the tournament's inception in 1987, and has made appearances in all tournaments thus far. Despite this, they experienced little success until the 2015 tournament, with just one victory over Zimbabwe in 1991, and two draws with Canada in 2007 and 2011. In 2015 they defeated South Africa with a score of 34–32, their first win since 1991 against Zimbabwe, which they followed up with victories over Samoa and the United States in the same pool stage, but despite their 3–1 record failed to reach the knockout round.

They were the home team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which was held in Japan.

In the 2019 World Cup, Japan were drawn in Group A alongside Ireland, Russia, Samoa, and Scotland. After a nervy opening night win against Russia (30–10),[40] Japan went on to beat Ireland 19–12,[41] a huge upset and a result few predicted. Their third group game against Samoa ended in another win, this time 38–19, while also securing a highly important bonus point (for scoring four or more tries).[42]

In the highly anticipated final group game against Scotland, both teams needed to win to progress to the knockout stages at the expense of the other. The match went ahead despite pre-game worries that it would have to be cancelled due to the ongoing issues caused by Typhoon Hagibis. The pre-tournament rules stated that if the typhoon was sufficient enough to intervene, the game would be cancelled, and the result declared a draw. This controversial rule[43] would have allowed Japan to progress by default due to previous results.

After final safety checks, the game was allowed to commence. Japan edged out Scotland 28–21 to register their second shock win of the tournament. They also became the first Asian nation to top their group at a Rugby World Cup, and the first Asian team to progress to the knockout stages.[44]

Japan played South Africa in the quarter finals in Tokyo on Sunday 20 October 2019, kick off 19:15 JST. They kept pace with South Africa in the first half, but two tries and three penalties in the second half for South Africa put the game out of reach and Japan lost 26–3.[45]

World Cup record World Cup Qualification record
Year Round P W D L F A P W D L F A
Australia New Zealand 1987 Pool Stage 3 0 0 3 48 123 Automatically qualified
United Kingdom Republic of Ireland France 1991 Pool Stage 3 1 0 2 77 87 3 2 0 1 65 63
South Africa 1995 Pool Stage 3 0 0 3 55 252 4 4 0 0 210 52
Wales 1999 Pool Stage 3 0 0 3 36 140 3 3 0 0 221 25
Australia 2003 Pool Stage 4 0 0 4 79 163 4 4 0 0 420 47
France 2007 Pool Stage 4 0 1 3 64 210 6 6 0 0 379 60
New Zealand 2011 Pool Stage 4 0 1 3 69 184 4 4 0 0 326 30
England 2015 Pool Stage 4 3 0 1 98 100 8 8 0 0 658 41
Japan 2019 Quarter-finals 5 4 0 1 118 88 Qualified as hosts
France 2023 To be determined Automatically qualified
Total 10/10 33 8 2 23 526 1259 32 31 0 1 2279 318

Pacific Nations Cup[edit]

Pacific Nations Cup Match at Chichibunomiya Stadium on 17 June 2012, in which Samoa defeated Japan 27–26

Asia Rugby Championship[edit]

Asia Rugby Championship record
Year Round P W D L PF PA
1969 Japan Champions 4 4 0 0 191 35
1970 Thailand Champions 3 3 0 0 111 39
1972 Hong Kong Champions 4 4 0 0 167 4
1974 Sri Lanka Champions 4 4 0 0 140 37
1976 Japan Champions 4 4 0 0 194 21
1978 Malaysia Champions 3 3 0 0 97 30
1980 Taiwan Champions 4 4 0 0 265 21
1982 Singapore Runner-up 4 3 0 1 112 30
1984 Japan Champions 4 4 0 0 202 23
1986 Thailand Runner-up 4 2 0 2 232 54
1988 Hong Kong Runner-up 4 3 0 1 223 43
1990 Sri Lanka Runner-up 4 3 0 1 200 34
1992 Hong Kong Champions 3 3 0 0 225 12
1994 Malaysia Champions 3 3 0 0 226 17
1996 Taiwan Champions 2 2 0 0 242 22
1998 Singapore Champions 3 3 0 0 221 25
2000 Japan Champions 3 3 0 0 164 41
2002 Thailand Runner-up 3 2 0 1 93 54
2004 Hong Kong Champions 2 2 0 0 69 12
2006–07 Hong Kong Champions 2 2 0 0 106 3
2008 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Kazakhstan United Arab Emirates Qatar Champions 4 4 0 0 310 58
2009 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Kazakhstan Singapore Champions 4 4 0 0 271 40
2010 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Kazakhstan United Arab Emirates Bahrain Champions 4 4 0 0 326 30
2011 Hong Kong Japan Sri Lanka Kazakhstan United Arab Emirates Champions 4 4 0 0 307 35
2012 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Kazakhstan United Arab Emirates Champions 4 4 0 0 312 11
2013 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Philippines United Arab Emirates Champions 4 4 0 0 316 8
2014 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Philippines Sri Lanka Champions 4 4 0 0 342 33
2015 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Champions 4 3 1 0 163 40
2016 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Champions 4 4 0 0 242 23
2017 Hong Kong Japan South Korea Champions 4 4 0 0 172 56
Total 25 titles 107 100 1 6 6286 891

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Japan pull off greatest shock in World Cup history". ESPN. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Rugby World Cup: Japan's Shocking Upset Commands Attention". The New York Times. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Japan beat South Africa". The Guardian. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Joyous fans roar Japan to thrilling win and place in the knockouts". Rugby World Cup. 13 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Springboks 'push the right buttons' to end Japan's party". Rugby World Cup. 20 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  7. ^ Galbraith, Mike (15 March 2014). "1866 and all that: the untold early history of rugby in Japan". The Japan Times.
  8. ^ Young, Keith (2015). "Japan". Complete Rugby Union Compendium. Edinburgh: Arena Sport. ISBN 978-1-909715-34-9.
  9. ^ "Elissalde sacked as Japan coach".
  10. ^ "Eddie Jones appointed coach of Japan". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 26 December 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  11. ^ JRFU (2 May 2012). "Fujita in line for historic debut". Archived from the original on 10 July 2012.
  12. ^ "Eddie Jones hospitalised after Japan rugby coach suffers suspected stroke – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Retrieved 17 October 2013.
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  16. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2015: Japan beat USA in final pool game". 11 October 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
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  19. ^ Kitson, Robert (13 October 2019). "Japan hang on to reach Rugby World Cup last eight and send Scotland out". The Guardian.
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  23. ^ "ラグビー日本代表に桜が咲いた日 かつてエンブレムは「つぼみ」だった - スポニチ Sponichi Annex スポーツ". スポニチ Sponichi Annex (in Japanese).
  24. ^ "ラグビー日本代表 ユニフォームの歴史 1930年代〜2019年".
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  27. ^ France and Japan draw 23–23 in Paris
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  29. ^ "Italy lose 26–23 to Japan in Tokyo" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 21 June 2014.
  30. ^ a b "Men's World Rankings". World Rugby. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
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  32. ^ a b "Hammett, Nakatake assigned interim coaching duties for Brave Blossoms". The Japan Times. 10 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
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  34. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most matches". ESPN scrum.
  35. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual tries". ESPN scrum.
  36. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual points". ESPN scrum.
  37. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most matches as a captain". ESPN scrum.
  38. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual points in a match". ESPN scrum.
  39. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual tries in a match". ESPN scrum.
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  45. ^ Grey, Becky (20 October 2019). "South Africa 26-3 Japan: Springboks through to Rugby World Cup semi-finals". BBC Sport.

External links[edit]