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Yamada keeping RWC hopes alive


Discarded Japan star Akihito Yamada keeping faint World Cup hopes alive with French club stint

Discarded Japanese international Akihito Yamada is still intent on making the Brave Blossoms’ World Cup squad after signing a two-month loan deal with Top 14 club Lyon earlier this month.

Yamada last played for Japan last November, and wasn’t included in head coach Jamie Joseph’s 35-man squad for the Pacific Nations Cup.

The 34-year-old told AFP he had spoken to the national coaching staff about where he stands in the selection frame, and isn’t giving up hope on appearing in a World Cup on home soil.

“I’m trying to get back into Japan’s squad for the World Cup. I just have to train hard every day,” Yamada said.

“I came here to get fit just in case of a World Cup call-up so I’m hopeful. If there’s an injury, I told them: ‘please call me up’.”

A member of the 2015 World Cup side which shocked the world by defeating two-time world champions South Africa, the 25-test wing emphasised the importance of capitalising on that experience next month.

“It was a great experience as a rugby player. I was lucky to be there. For Japanese rugby it was a great day. We have to use all that experience for this year’s World Cup,” he said.

Yamada is the second Japanese international to join French club rugby ahead of the new Top 14 season after hooker Takeshi Hino was given a trial by reigning champions Toulouse.

The duo follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Ayumu Goromaru and Christian Loamanu in becoming some of the few Japanese stars to join clubs in French rugby’s top flight.

“My friend Hino, I believe he can do very well in Toulouse. We chatted just before and he’s just training hard to get some game time,” Yamada said,

“It’s a great opportunity to make rugby bigger through Asia.”

Should he miss out on Joseph’s final 31-man squad for the global tournament, an extended stay in Lyon would be on the cards for Yamada before he returns to the Japanese Top League with NTT Communications Shining Arcs.

“I would like to stay here for longer in the season, because the Japanese season starts in January 2020, so there’s plenty of time,” he said.

“I would like to get into French rugby and also French culture.”

Japan play their final World Cup warm-up match against the Springboks in Kumagaya on September 6, with Joseph set to name his squad following the clash.

The hosts then open the World Cup against Russia at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on September 20, and will go on to face fellow Pool A opponents Ireland, Samoa and Scotland as they eye a maiden appearance in the knockout stages of the tournament.

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Discarded Japan star Akihito Yamada keeping faint World Cup hopes alive with French club stint
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