World Cup - Team Guide: Japan

Thu, 08 Sep 17:11:00 2011

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Members of Japan's national rugby team - 0

JAPAN

Colours: Red and white hooped shirt, black shorts.

Nickname: Cherry Blossoms.

World ranking: 13.

Coach: John Kirwan.

The legendary New Zealand wing has been in charge of the Cherry Blossoms since 2007 and has led them to four successive Asian 5 Nations titles, but he knows they need to move up several gears to achieve his target of two World Cup group wins.

Squad:

BACKS Born Caps Tries Cons Pens DGs Pts

James Arlidge 11/8/79 29 6 75 22 2 252

Kosuke Endo 11/11/80 38 17 0 0 0 85

Atsushi Hiwasa 22/5/87 6 0 0 0 0 0

Yuta Imamura 31/10/84 32 11 0 0 0 55

Ryan Nicholas 23/5/79 32 9 53 14 0 193

Hirotoki Onozawa 29/3/78 64 42 0 0 0 210

Koji Taira 12/1/83 30 12 0 0 0 60

Fumiaki Tanaka 3/1/85 28 6 0 0 0 30

Alisi Tupuailei 1/2/82 16 19 0 0 0 95

Taihei Ueda 3/3/82 5 1 0 0 0 5

Takehisa Usuzuki 28/9/85 6 8 0 0 0 40

Shaun Webb 30/12/81 31 18 45 5 0 195

Murray Williams 27/6/82 3 0 0 0 0 0

Tomoki Yoshida 22/2/82 24 2 0 0 0 10

FORWARDS

Yusuke Aoki 19/6/83 21 1 0 0 0 5

Nozomu Fujita 2/10/84 10 0 0 0 0 0

Kensuke Hatakeyama 2/8/85 23 5 0 0 0 25

Hisateru Hirashima 15/1/83 24 0 0 0 0 0

Ryukoliniasi Holani 25/10/81 19 11 0 0 0 55

Shota Horie 21/1/86 14 4 0 0 0 20

Justin Ives 24/5/84 8 2 0 0 0 10

Naoki Kawamata 31/10/85 17 1 0 0 0 5

Takashi Kikutani 24/2/80 44 23 0 0 0 115

Toshizumi Kitagawa 7/2/81 37 2 0 0 0 10

Michael Leitch 7/10/88 18 5 0 0 0 25

Hitoshi Ono 6/5/78 51 9 0 0 0 45

Itaru Taniguchi 1/10/84 7 0 0 0 0 0

Luke Thompson 16/4/81 34 7 0 0 0 35

Sione Vatuvei 14/3/83 5 2 0 0 0 10

Hiroki Yuhara 21/1/84 8 2 0 0 0 10

Key player: Takashi Kikutani.

Japan’s flanker and captain has been an important figure as the Cherry Blossoms have attempted to boost the country’s morale with some sporting success after the devastating tsunami in March, and he will be eager to make amends for missing the 2007 World Cup.

2010-11 form:

6/11/10 v Russia (Tokyo) W 75-3

30/4/11 v Hong Kong (Hong Kong) W 45-22

7/5/11 v Kazakhstan (Bangkok) W 61-0

13/5/11 v UAE (Dubai) W 111-0

21/5/11 v Sri Lanka (Colombo) W 90-13

2/7/11 v Samoa (Tokyo) L 15-34

9/7/11 v Tonga (Suva) W 28-27

13/7/11 v Fiji (Lautoka) W 24-13

13/8/11 v Italy (Cesena) L 24-31

21/8/11 v USA (Tokyo) W 20-14

World Cup pedigree:

Group stage: 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007.

Record: P20, W1, D1, L18.

Most appearances: Masahiro Kunda, Yukio Motoki 9.

Most points: Toru Kurihara 40.

Most tries: Eiji Kutsuki 4.

High:

That’s easy – their one and only World Cup finals win, over Zimbabwe in Belfast in 1991. Their 52-8 drubbing of the hapless Zimbabweans enabled the Cherry Blossoms to avoid bottom place in their group, a rare occurrence for the Japanese.

Low:

There have been many, but few can match their 145-17 demolition by New Zealand in 1995 in Bloemfontein, which still stands as a World Cup record – as do the 45 points garnered by Simon Culhane, Culhane’s 20 conversions and Marc Ellis’ six tries.

Hero: Shotaro Onishi.

For landing the conversion of Koji Taira’s injury-time try in Japan’s 12-12 draw with Canada in Bordeaux in 2007. Onishi’s deadly boot ensured the Cherry Blossoms condemned the Canadians to bottom place in the pool.

Villains: The 1995 squad.

Their pathetic performances in the World Cup in South Africa, where they conceded 252 points in just three matches, set rugby back years in Japan. Not only did they suffer a record 145-17 loss to the All Blacks, but they also let in half-centuries against Wales and Ireland.

2011 prospects:

Their world ranking suggests they should finish third in their group, which, if achieved, would make 2011 their best ever World Cup, but to do that they cannot afford any slip-ups against Tonga and Canada.

Group matches:

10/9/11 v France (Auckland)

16/9/11 v New Zealand (Hamilton)

21/9/11 v Tonga (Whangarei)

27/9/11 v Canada (Napier)

Eurosport

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