Japan name 30-man squad

by Staff Writer

Japan have named their final 30-player squad for the Rugby World Cup next month in New Zealand, where coach John Kirwan has set a target of winning two games.

The Brave Blossoms are the Asian rugby champions but boast only one win and a draw from their previous six World Cup tournaments, with 18 defeats.

In the World Cup, which kicks off on September 9, Japan will play France, hosts New Zealand, Tonga and Canada in Pool A in the first round.

"I think if we can get there and play incredibly competitive games against France and New Zealand, and then play Tonga and Canada, we will show the world how much Japanese rugby has improved," said Kirwan.

Months after he took the helm, the All Blacks legend, who scored 67 tries for New Zealand, helped Japan end a 13-match World Cup losing streak with a draw against Canada in the 2007 event.

Japan are currently ranked 13th in the world, above Canada at 14th and Tonga at 15th. France are fourth in the field led by powerhouse New Zealand.

Kirwan said Japan, who will be captained by Takashi Kikutani, have "improved a lot overall. I think this team compared to four years ago is much more complete. We have a good combination and we are stronger and faster."

He named a total of 10 foreign imports, including New Zealand-born stand-off James Arlidge and full back Shaun Webb, as well as players from Tonga, Australia and Samoa, saying "we need to use the foreign players to help our country get better".

"I'm happy with the side, it's a sort of stage four. We've been working for the last four years to put the team together and understand how we want to play. The team is very familiar with each other with a good mix of youth and experience," Kirwan said.


Forwards (16): Hisateru Hirashima (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers) Naoki Kawamata (Panasonic Wild Knights), Yusuke Aoki (Suntory Sungoliath), Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild Knights), Hiroki Yuhara (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Kensuke Hatakeyama (Suntory Sungoliath), Nozomu Fujita (Honda Heat), Hitoshi Ono (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Toshizumi Kitagawa (Toyota Verblitz), Luke Thompson (Kintetsu Liners), Justin Ives (Panasonic Wild Knights), Takashi Kikutani (Toyota Verblitz), Michael Leitch (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Sione Vatuvei (Panasonic Wild Knights), Ryukoliniasi Holani (Panasonic Wild Knights), Itaru Taniguchi (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers)

Backs (14): Fumiaki Tanaka (Panasonic Wild Knights), Tomoki Yoshida (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Atsushi Hiwasa (Suntory Sungoliath), James Arlidge (Nottingham), Murray Williams (Toyota Industries Shuttles), Yuta Imamura (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers), Ryan Nicholas (Suntory Sungoliath), Koji Taira (Suntory Sungoliath), Alisi Tupuailai (Canon Eagles), Hirotoki Onozawa (Suntory Sungoliath), Kosuke Endo (Toyota Verblitz), Takehisa Usuzuki (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Shaun Webb (Coca-Cola West Red), Taihei Ueda (Honda Heat)

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