Takeshi Kikutani will captain the Japan rugby team at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. John Kirwan, one of New Zealand’s stars of the inaugural tournament, which they hosted, returns as coach.
Japan are in pool A along with hosts New Zealand, Tonga, France and Canada. Japan and France open their 2011 Rugby World Cup campaigns on September 10 at North Harbour Stadium.
When they meet the All Blacks during pool play, Japan will be hoping to fare better than when they played them at the 1995 World Cup. In that game New Zealand racked up 145 points against them with Marc Ellis scoring a record 6 tries. The score is still a record for an All Blacks team in a test. However, Japan has become a much more established team since then. They play regularly at international level. In particular, this year they won the Pacific Nations Cup, played against Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
Japan Rugby World Cup 2011 Squad:
Forwards: Hisateru Hirashima, Naoki Kawamata, Yusuke Aoki, Shota Horie, Hiroki Yuhara, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Nozomu Fujita, Hitoshi Ono, Toshizumi Kitagawa, Luke Thompson, Justin Ives, Takashi Kikutani (captain), Michael Leitch, Sione Vatuvei, Ryukoliniasi Holani, Itaru Taniguchi.
Backs: Fumiaki Tanaka, Tomoki Yoshida, Atsushi Hiwasa, James Arlidge, Murray Williams (Toyota Industries Shuttles), Yuta Imamura, Ryan Nicholas, Koji Taira, Alisi Tupuailai, Hirotoki Onozawa, Kosuke Endo, Takehisa Usuzuki, Shaun Webb, Taihei Ueda.