Michael Leitch

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Michael Leitch
リーチ マイケル
Michael Leitch, 2014-06-21.jpg
Birth nameMichael Leitch
Date of birth (1988-10-07) 7 October 1988 (age 30)
Place of birthBurwood, Christchurch, New Zealand
Height178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Weight105 kg (231 lb)
SchoolSapporo Yamanote High School
UniversityTokai University
Rugby union career
Position(s) Flanker, Number 8
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
2011– Toshiba Brave Lupus 69 (100)
Correct as of 15 January 2017
Super Rugby
Years Team Apps (Points)
2013, 2015–2017 Chiefs 30 (30)
2018- Sunwolves ()
Correct as of 6 May 2017
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
2008– Japan 57 (70)
Correct as of 3 November 2018
National sevens team(s)
Years Team Comps

Michael Leitch (リーチ マイケル, Rīchi Maikeru, born 7 October 1988) is a New Zealand-born Japanese rugby union player who plays in the back row for the Japanese national team.

Early life[edit]

Leitch was born in Burwood, New Zealand to a white New Zealand father and a Fijian mother, but moved to Japan at age 15 to study. He learnt the Japanese culture and language which he says he now speaks better than his native English and is considered well integrated to Japan.[citation needed] In 2008 he captained Japan at the Junior World Championship. He became a Japanese citizen in 2013.[1][2][3]

Professional career[edit]

He made his international debut in 2008 against the United States in Nagoya aged 20, receiving a yellow card in that game for a dangerous tackle. He quickly established himself as a regular member of the national side. His first try came against Kazakhstan in April 2009.[4] He played in the 2011 Rugby World Cup and impressed as was praised as one of Japan's best forwards,[5] winning man of the match in the loss against Tonga[6] where he made a try saving tackle on Siale Piutau and scored a try.[7]

After the World Cup he joined the Toshiba Brave Lupus in the Top League and in his first season he was named in the league's team of the season and given the award of "revelation of the season" at the end of the season awards.[8] He followed this up by being named in the team of the season for a second season running in the 2012/2013 season as well,[9] after which he moved back to New Zealand and was named in the Chiefs Wider Training Squad,[10] but was denied the chance to play after suffering a broken arm. In his first match back from injury playing for Japan against Fiji in June, he suffered a broken leg.

He got a second chance with the Chiefs, however, signing a contract with the Hamilton-based side for the 2015 Super Rugby season.[11]

He was appointed Japan captain by Eddie Jones in April 2014, becoming the second New Zealand-born player to lead the Brave Blossoms after Andrew McCormick in the 1990s.[12]

For the 2018 season, Leitch moved to the Sunwolves, the Japanese Super Rugby team.

He is the current captain of the Japan national rugby side and led them to "the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history" as part of the team that defeated two-time champions South Africa in 2015.[13]


  1. ^ "Leitch feels right at home in Japan". Rugby World Cup 2015. World Rugby.
  2. ^ "Win or lose, Japan will be fast and furious, says captain Leitch". Rugby World Cup 2015. World Rugby. 11 August 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Japan win greater than England's RWC win". Sport24. AFP. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Michael Leitch - Japan Rugby Club".
  5. ^ "Limelight too bright for rising star Leitch".
  6. ^ "Tonga take control to eliminate Japan". Archived from the original on 2012-02-07.
  7. ^ "Michael Leitch performance vs Tonga 2011".
  8. ^ "Le XV type de Top League 2011/2012".
  9. ^ "Le XV type de Top League 2012/2013".
  10. ^ "Chiefs' search for talent extends to Japan".
  11. ^ "Dave Rennie on the hunt for another halfback". Waikato Times. Fairfax NZ. 17 October 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Michael Leitch - Japan Rugby Club".
  13. ^ "Match report highlights: South Africa 32-34 Japan". ITV. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2015.

External links[edit]