Japan national rugby union team

Last updated

Japan
Logo JRFU.svg
Nickname(s)Cherry Blossoms/Brave Blossoms/Sakuras
Emblem Sakura
Union Japan Rugby Football Union
Head coach Jamie Joseph
Captain Michael Leitch
Most caps Hitoshi Ono (98)
Top scorer Ayumu Goromaru (708)
Top try scorer Daisuke Ohata (69)
Home stadium Chichibunomiya Stadium
Kit left arm jpn19h.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn19h.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn19h.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts Englandshorts19.png
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
First colours
Kit left arm jpn19a.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn19a.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn19a.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current10 (as of 23 November 2020)
Highest7 (2019)
Lowest14 (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
Japan 17–145 New Zealand
(Bloemfontein, South Africa; 4 June 1995)
World Cup
Appearances9 (First in 1987 )
Best resultQuarter-finals, 2019
Website www.rugby-japan.jp

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.

Contents

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 the Springboks, 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

Rugby football game in Yokohama, 1874 Rugby football japan.jpg
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)

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)

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)

Japan play Tonga at Honjo stadium on 4 June 2006 Japan v Tonga at Kitakyushu.JPG
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)

Japan plays Australia A on 8 June 2008 Japan v Australia A IRB Pac Nations 2008 June 8.JPG
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)

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 and Wales.

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 James Whitinui Joseph-1.jpg
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)

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]

Tournament history

Rugby World Cup

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), [20] Japan went on to beat Ireland 19–12, [21] 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). [22]

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 [23] 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. [24]

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. [25]

World Cup record World Cup Qualification record
YearRoundPWDLFAPWDLFA
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Flag of New Zealand.svg 1987 Pool Stage300348123Automatically qualified
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Flag of Ireland.svg Flag of France.svg 1991 Pool Stage3102778732016563
Flag of South Africa.svg 1995 Pool Stage300355252440021052
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 1999 Pool Stage300336140330022125
Flag of Australia (converted).svg 2003 Pool Stage400479163440042047
Flag of France.svg 2007 Pool Stage401364210660037960
Flag of New Zealand.svg 2011 Pool Stage401369184440032630
Flag of England.svg 2015 Pool Stage430198100880065841
Flag of Japan.svg 2019 Quarter-finals540111888Qualified as hosts
Flag of France.svg 2023 To be determinedAutomatically qualified
Total10/1033822352612593231012279318

Pacific Nations Cup

Pacific Nations Cup Match at Chichibunomiya Stadium on 17 June 2012, in which Samoa defeated Japan 27-26 Japan vs Samoa Rugby Matc 17 June 2012.jpg
Pacific Nations Cup Match at Chichibunomiya Stadium on 17 June 2012, in which Samoa defeated Japan 27–26

Asia Rugby Championship

Asia Rugby Championship record
YearRoundPWDLPFPA
Flag of Japan.svg 1969 Champions440019135
Flag of Thailand.svg 1970 Champions330011139
Flag of Hong Kong 1959.svg 1972 Champions44001674
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg 1974 Champions440014037
Flag of Japan.svg 1976 Champions440019421
Flag of Malaysia.svg 1978 Champions33009730
Flag of the Republic of China.svg 1980 Champions440026521
Flag of Singapore.svg 1982 Runner-up430111230
Flag of Japan.svg 1984 Champions440020223
Flag of Thailand.svg 1986 Runner-up420223254
Flag of Hong Kong 1959.svg 1988 Runner-up430122343
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg 1990 Runner-up430120034
Flag of Hong Kong 1959.svg 1992 Champions330022512
Flag of Malaysia.svg 1994 Champions330022617
Flag of the Republic of China.svg 1996 Champions220024222
Flag of Singapore.svg 1998 Champions330022125
Flag of Japan.svg 2000 Champions330016441
Flag of Thailand.svg 2002 Runner-up32019354
Flag of Hong Kong.svg 2004 Champions22006912
Flag of Hong Kong.svg 2006–07 Champions22001063
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Flag of Qatar.svg Flag of South Korea.svg Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg 2008 Champions440031058
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Flag of Singapore.svg Flag of South Korea.svg 2009 Champions440027140
Flag of Bahrain.svg Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Flag of South Korea.svg Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg 2010 Champions440032630
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Flag of Sri Lanka.svg Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg 2011 Champions440030735
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Flag of South Korea.svg Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg 2012 Champions440031211
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of the Philippines.svg Flag of South Korea.svg Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg 2013 Champions44003168
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of the Philippines.svg Flag of South Korea.svg Flag of Sri Lanka.svg 2014 Champions440034233
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of South Korea.svg 2015 Champions431016340
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of South Korea.svg 2016 Champions440024223
Flag of Hong Kong.svg Flag of Japan.svg Flag of South Korea.svg 2017 Champions440017256
Total25 titles107100166286891

Overall

Men's World Rugby Rankings
Top 20 rankings as of 26 April, 2021 [26]
RankChange*TeamPoints
1Steady2.svgFlag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 094.20
2Steady2.svgFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 088.95
3Steady2.svgFlag of England.svg  England 085.44
4Steady2.svgIRFU flag.svg  Ireland 084.69
5Steady2.svgFlag of France.svg  France 084.27
6Steady2.svgFlag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 083.44
7Steady2.svgFlag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 083.08
8Steady2.svgFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 082.02
9Steady2.svgFlag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 080.31
10Steady2.svgFlag of Japan.svg  Japan 079.29
11Steady2.svgFlag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 076.87
12Steady2.svgFlag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 073.73
13Steady2.svgFlag of Tonga.svg  Tonga 071.44
14Steady2.svgFlag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 070.72
15Steady2.svgFlag of Italy.svg  Italy 070.65
16Steady2.svgFlag of the United States.svg  United States 068.10
17Steady2.svgFlag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 067.02
18Steady2.svgFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 066.22
19Steady2.svgFlag of Spain.svg  Spain 064.82
20Steady2.svgFlag of Russia.svg  Russia 062.71
21Steady2.svgFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 062.10
22Steady2.svgFlag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong 061.23
23Steady2.svgFlag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 061.11
24Steady2.svgFlag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 061.04
25Steady2.svgFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 060.09
26Steady2.svgFlag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 057.71
27Steady2.svgFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 057.17
28Steady2.svgFlag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 054.12
29Steady2.svgFlag of Chile.svg  Chile 053.81
30Steady2.svgFlag of Germany.svg  Germany 053.13
*Change from the previous week
Japan's historical rankings

See or edit raw graph data.

Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 26 April 2021 [26]

Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by a Japan national XV to 13 October 2019. [27]

OpponentPlayedWonLostDrawnWin %ForAgaDiff
Arabian Gulf 3300100.0%25620+236
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 615026.7%159259−100
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 50500.0%88283−195
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia A 40400.0%51242−191
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Australian Universities624033.3%6090−30
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Emerging Wallabies210150.0%4139+2
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 25158260.0%612581+31
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg British Columbia Bears 622233.3%10382+21
Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg  Chinese Taipei 4400100.0%47427+447
Flag of England.svg  England 20200.0%2295−73
Flag of England.svg  England XV 50500.0%71131−60
Flag of England.svg  England Saxons 20200.0%3092−62
Flag of England.svg England Students10100.0%043−43
Flag of England.svg England Under-23's20200.0%2577−52
Flag of England.svg Cambridge University 413025.0%52110−58
Flag of England.svg Oxford University 40400.0%28130−102
Flag of England.svg Oxford and Cambridge 30300.0%30113−83
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 18 414022.2%346488−142
Flag of France.svg  France 40310.0%91151−60
Flag of France.svg  France XV 60600.0%31272−241
Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 6 51083.3%15096+54
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong 29254086.2%1175370+805
IRFU flag.svg  Ireland 8 17012.5%137348−211
IRFU flag.svg  Ireland XV 20200.0%2881−53
IRFU flag.svg Ireland Students10100.0%1224−12
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 826025.0%146241−95
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan 5500100.0%41823+395
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 36296180.1%1614517+1097
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 10100.0%1315−2
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 4 0400.0%61351−290
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand XV 20200.0%4180−176
Flag of New Zealand.svg  Junior All Blacks 817012.5%98337−239
Flag of New Zealand.svg  Māori 10100.0%2265−43
Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealand Universities15211213.3%221417−196
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines 2200100.0%22010+210
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Queensland Reds 10100.0%642−36
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 651083.3%152119+33
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 761083.3%299118+181
Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 15411026.7%273482−209
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 8 17012.5%140366−226
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland XV 413025.0%64165−101
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore 1100100.0%4515+30
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 3 12033.4%4499−55
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 3300100.0%11443+71
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka 3300100.0%26629+237
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand 1100100.0%4211+31
Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga 1899050.0%459453+6
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates 3300100.0%3106+304
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 241013141.7%560675−115
Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 321066.7%8832+56
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 10 19010.0%159526−367
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales XV 40400.0%56229−173
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Welsh Clubs10100.0%963−54
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 1100100.0%528+44
Total3531551881043.75%99499799+150

Wins against Tier 1 nations

3 June 1968 [28] Junior All Blacks  Flag of New Zealand.svg19-23 Flag of Japan.svg Japan Flag of New Zealand.svg Athletic Park, Wellington  
Try: Yoshihiro Sakata (4)
Akira Yokoi
Tadayuki Ito
Con: Tsutomu Katsuraguchi
Pen: Tsutomu Katsuraguchi
Try: Mike O’Callaghan
??? (2)
Con: ??? (2)
Pen: ??? (2)
Attendance: 25,000
Referee: RC Fenton
28 May 1989Japan Flag of Japan.svg 28–24Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland XV Flag of Japan.svg Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo  
15 September 1998Japan Flag of Japan.svg 44–29Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Flag of Japan.svg 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: Flag of Italy.svg Giovanni Morandin (Italy)
15 June 2013Japan Flag of Japan.svg 23–8Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales Flag of Japan.svg 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 2014Japan Flag of Japan.svg 26–23Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Flag of Japan.svg 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  Flag of South Africa.svg32–34Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Flag of England.svg Falmer Stadium, Brighton  
16:45Try: 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  Flag of Japan.svg34–17Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Flag of Japan.svg 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  Flag of Japan.svg19–12IRFU flag.svg  Ireland Flag of Japan.svg 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  Flag of Japan.svg28–21Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland Flag of Japan.svg 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)

Additionally, Japan tied Flag of France.svg  France 23–23 in Paris, 25 November 2017. [30]

Current squad

On April 12, The Japan Rugby Football Union has announced the 52 players who will make up the Japan National Team Wider Training Squad for 2021. The final squad of 35 players will be named on May 24 after the final matches of 2021 Top League. [31]
On 28 April, Semisi Masirewa and Daiki Nakajima were added to the wider training squad. [32]

Caps updated: 12 April 2021

Player Position Date of birth (age)CapsClub/province
Yoshikatsu Hikosaka Hooker (1991-01-18) 18 January 1991 (age 30)0 Toyota Verblitz
Kosuke Horikoshi Hooker (1995-06-02) 2 June 1995 (age 25)2 Suntory Sungoliath
Shunta Nakamura Hooker (1994-02-28) 28 February 1994 (age 27)0 Suntory Sungoliath
Atsushi Sakate Hooker (1993-06-21) 21 June 1993 (age 27)21 Panasonic Wild Knights
Asaeli Ai Valu Prop (1989-05-07) 7 May 1989 (age 31)14 Panasonic Wild Knights
Shunsuke Asaoka Prop (1996-06-24) 24 June 1996 (age 24)0 Toyota Verblitz
Keita Inagaki Prop (1990-06-02) 2 June 1990 (age 30)34 Panasonic Wild Knights
Koo Ji-won Prop (1994-07-20) 20 July 1994 (age 26)13 Honda Heat
Shinnosuke Kakinaga Prop (1991-12-19) 19 December 1991 (age 29)9 Suntory Sungoliath
Kengo Kitagawa Prop (1992-08-27) 27 August 1992 (age 28)3 Kubota Spears
Craig Millar Prop (1990-10-29) 29 October 1990 (age 30)0 Panasonic Wild Knights
Yukio Morikawa Prop (1993-02-06) 6 February 1993 (age 28)0 Suntory Sungoliath
Isileli Nakajima Prop (1989-07-09) 9 July 1989 (age 31)8 Kobelco Steelers
Mark Abbott Lock (1990-02-20) 20 February 1990 (age 31)0 Munakata Sanix Blues
Ryota Hasegawa Lock (1993-05-12) 12 May 1993 (age 27)0 Panasonic Wild Knights
Uwe Helu Lock (1990-07-12) 12 July 1990 (age 30)16 Yamaha Júbilo
James Moore Lock (1993-06-11) 11 June 1993 (age 27)8 Munakata Sanix Blues
Liaki Moli Lock (1990-01-04) 4 January 1990 (age 31)0 Hino Red Dolphins
Wimpie van der Walt Lock (1989-01-06) 6 January 1989 (age 32)16 NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes
Jack Cornelsen Back row (1994-10-13) 13 October 1994 (age 26)0 Panasonic Wild Knights
Ben Gunter Back row (1997-10-24) 24 October 1997 (age 23)0 Panasonic Wild Knights
Kazuki Himeno Back row (1994-07-27) 27 July 1994 (age 26)17 Toyota Verblitz / Flag of New Zealand.svg Highlanders
Lappies Labuschagné Back row (1989-01-11) 11 January 1989 (age 32)8 Kubota Spears
Michael Leitch (c) Back row (1988-10-07) 7 October 1988 (age 32)68 Toshiba Brave Lupus
Amanaki Mafi Back row (1990-01-11) 11 January 1990 (age 31)27 Canon Eagles
Shuhei Matsuhashi Back row (1993-11-24) 24 November 1993 (age 27)8 Ricoh Black Rams
Lui Naeata Back row (1994-02-02) 2 February 1994 (age 27)0 Kobelco Steelers
Naoki Ozawa Back row (1988-10-08) 8 October 1988 (age 32)4 Suntory Sungoliath
Tevita Tatafu Back row (1996-01-02) 2 January 1996 (age 25)3 Suntory Sungoliath
Kouki Arai Scrum-half (1993-05-14) 14 May 1993 (age 27)0 Canon Eagles
Taiki Koyama Scrum-half (1994-10-31) 31 October 1994 (age 26)0 Panasonic Wild Knights
Daiki Nakajima Scrum-half (1996-03-25) 25 March 1996 (age 25)2 NEC Green Rockets
Naoto Saito Scrum-half (1997-08-26) 26 August 1997 (age 23)0 Suntory Sungoliath
Kaito Shigeno Scrum-half (1990-11-21) 21 November 1990 (age 30)10 Toyota Verblitz
Doga Maeda Fly-half (1996-11-30) 30 November 1996 (age 24)4 NTT Communications Shining Arcs
Rikiya Matsuda Fly-half (1994-05-03) 3 May 1994 (age 26)24 Panasonic Wild Knights
Yu Tamura Fly-half (1989-01-09) 9 January 1989 (age 32)63 Canon Eagles
Shane Gates Centre (1992-09-27) 27 September 1992 (age 28)0 NTT Communications Shining Arcs
Yusuke Kajimura Centre (1995-09-13) 13 September 1995 (age 25)1 Suntory Sungoliath
Timothy Lafaele Centre (1991-08-19) 19 August 1991 (age 29)23 Kobelco Steelers
Ryoto Nakamura Centre (1991-06-03) 3 June 1991 (age 29)24 Suntory Sungoliath
Dylan Riley Centre (1997-05-02) 2 May 1997 (age 23)0 Panasonic Wild Knights
Shota Emi Wing (1991-12-08) 8 December 1991 (age 29)0 Suntory Sungoliath
Siosaia Fifita Wing (1998-12-20) 20 December 1998 (age 22)0 Tenri University / Kintetsu Liners
Lomano Lemeki Wing (1989-01-20) 20 January 1989 (age 32)15 Munakata Sanix Blues
Semisi Masirewa Wing (1992-06-09) 9 June 1992 (age 28)0 Kintetsu Liners
Kotaro Matsushima Wing (1993-02-26) 26 February 1993 (age 28)39 Flag of France.svg Clermont
Ataata Moeakiola Wing (1996-02-06) 6 February 1996 (age 25)4 Kobelco Steelers
Jone Naikabula Wing (1994-04-12) 12 April 1994 (age 27)0 Toshiba Brave Lupus
Shogo Nakano Wing (1997-06-11) 11 June 1997 (age 23)0 Suntory Sungoliath
Ryuji Noguchi Fullback (1995-07-15) 15 July 1995 (age 25)13 Panasonic Wild Knights
Seiya Ozaki Fullback (1995-07-11) 11 July 1995 (age 25)3 Suntory Sungoliath
Gerhard van den Heever Fullback (1989-04-13) 13 April 1989 (age 32)0 Kubota Spears
Ryohei Yamanaka Fullback (1988-06-22) 22 June 1988 (age 32)18 Kobelco Steelers

Notable former players

Coaches

Kit

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.

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 1960s is Canterbury. Currently, the jersey sponsors are Lipovitan D (in the front) and Toshiba (in the back). Previously, between 1997 and 2000, the shirt sponsor was Epson.

Kit left arm japanclassic.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body japanclassic.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm japanclassic.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks 2 red stripes.png
Kit socks long.svg
1960s–2002 Home
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn99a.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks 2 white stripes.png
Kit socks long.svg
1960s–2002 Away
Kit left arm jpn03h.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn03h.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn03h.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
2003–2006 Home
Kit left arm jpn03a.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn03a.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn03a.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
2003–2006 Away
Kit left arm jpn07h.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn07h.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn07h.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
2007–2009 Home
Kit left arm jpn07a.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn07a.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn07a.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
2007–2009 Away
Kit left arm japanleft.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body japankit.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm japanright.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts japanshorts.png
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks japansocks.png
Kit socks long.svg
2011–2014 Home
Kit left arm japanleftb.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body japankitb.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm japanrightb.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts japanshortsb.png
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks japansocksb.png
Kit socks long.svg
2011–2014 Home
Kit left arm JapanleftRWC.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body Japankit16.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm JapanrightRWC.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts Japanshorts17.png
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks JapansocksRWC.png
Kit socks long.svg
2015–2018 Home
Kit left arm JapanleftRWCb.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body Japankit16b.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm JapanrightRWCb.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks JapansocksRWCb.png
Kit socks long.svg
2015–2018 Away
Kit left arm jpn19h.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn19h.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn19h.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts Englandshorts19.png
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
2019 Home
Kit left arm jpn19a.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body jpn19a.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm jpn19a.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
2019 Away

Player records (career)

Most matches

#PlayerPosSpanMatStartSubWonLostDraw%
1 Hitoshi Ono Lock 2004–20169878206035363
2 Hirotoki Onozawa Wing 2001–2013817384137352
3 Yukio Motoki Centre 1991–2005797363147140
4 Kensuke Hatakeyama Prop 2008–20167857215027165
5 Fumiaki Tanaka Scrum-half 2008–7560154627263
6 Luke Thompson Lock 2007–20197159124425263
7 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2005–20146857114126161
Michael Leitch Flanker 2008–686264620269
9 Shota Horie Hooker 2009–665974321267
10 Takeomi Ito Number 8 1996–20056340232636142
Yu Tamura Fly-half 2012–6349144121166

Last updated: Japan vs South Africa, 20 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only. [35]

Most tries

#PlayerPosSpanMatStartSubPtsTries
1 Daisuke Ohata Wing 1996–20065855334569
2 Hirotoki Onozawa Wing 2001–20138173827555
3 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2005–201468571116032
4 Terunori Masuho Wing 1991–20014746114729
5 Yoshikazu Fujita Wing 2012–30201013026
6 Kenki Fukuoka Wing 2013–20193831712525
7 Ryu Koliniasi Holani Number 8 2008–20164438611022
Kotaro Matsushima Fullback 2014–3935411022
9 Alisi Tupuailei Centre 2009–20112013710521
10 Toru Kurihara Wing 2000–20032823534720

Last updated: Japan vs South Africa, 20 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only. [36]

Most points

#PlayerPosSpanMatPtsTriesConvPensDrop
1 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 2005–20155670818162980
2 Keiji Hirose Fly-half 1994–200540422577792
3 Toru Kurihara Wing 2000–2003283472071350
4 Daisuke Ohata Wing 1996–20065834569000
5 James Arlidge Fly-half 2007–201132286878282
6 Hirotoki Onozawa Wing 2001–20138127555000
7 Yu Tamura Fly-half 2012–63273555460
8 Shaun Webb Fly-half 2008–201135198184560
9 Ryan Nicholas Centre 2008–201238193953140
10 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2005–20146816032000

Last updated: Japan vs South Africa, 20 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only. [37]

Most matches as captain

#PlayerPosSpanMatWonLostDraw%PtsTries
1 Takuro Miuchi Number 8 2002–2008451727138.88306
2 Takashi Kikutani Number 8 2008–2013342112163.2311022
3 Michael Leitch Flanker 2014–332210168.185010
4 Toshiaki Hirose Wing 2012–201318135072.22459
5 Masahiro Kunda Hooker 1993–19981459035.7100
6 Yukio Motoki Centre 1996–19971248033.3351
7 Seiji Hirao Centre 1989–19911156045.4500
8 Toshiyuki Hayashi Lock 1986–19871018115.0000
Andrew McCormick Centre 1998–19991046040.0051
Akira Yokoi Centre 1970–19741036135.0000

Last updated: Japan vs South Africa, 20 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only. [38]

Player records (match)

Most points in a match

#PlayerPosPtsTriesConvPensDropOppositionVenueDate
1 Toru Kurihara Wing 6061500Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg  Chinese Taipei Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg Tainan21 July 2002
2 Daisuke Ohata Wing 408000Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg  Chinese Taipei Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo 21 July 2002
3 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 3711600Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka Flag of Japan.svg Nagoya 10/05/2014
4 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 3611410Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines Flag of Japan.svg Fukuoka 20 April 2013
5 Toru Kurihara Wing 3521110Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo 16 June 2002
6 Keiji Hirose Fly-half 341190Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo 08/05/1999
7 Ayumu Goromaru Fullback 3221100Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan Flag of Kazakhstan.svg Almaty 28 April 2012
8 Keiji Hirose Fly-half 3101130Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo 08/05/2005
94 players on 30 points

Last updated: Japan vs South Africa, 20 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only. [39]

Most tries in a match

#PlayerPosPtsTriesConvPensDropOppositionVenueDate
1 Daisuke Ohata Wing 408000Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg  Chinese Taipei Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo 07/07/2002
2 Toru Kurihara Wing 6061500Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg  Chinese Taipei Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg Tainan21 July 2002
Daisuke Ohata Wing 306000Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong Flag of Japan.svg Tokyo 08/05/2005
Yoshikazu Fujita Wing 306000Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates Flag of Japan.svg Fukuoka 05/05/2012
5 Terunori Masuho Wing 255000Flag of Chinese Taipei for Olympic games.svg  Chinese Taipei Flag of Singapore.svg Singapore 27 October 1998
Kosuke Endo Wing 255000Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea Flag of South Korea.svg Daegu01/05/2010
Alisi Tupuailei Centre 255000Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka Flag of Sri Lanka.svg Colombo 21 May 2011
Kentaro Kodama Wing 255000Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea Flag of Japan.svg Kanagawa 30 April 2016
910 players on 4 tries

Last updated: Japan vs South Africa, 20 October 2019. Statistics include officially capped matches only. [40]

See also

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