Fresh from winning the Pacific Nations Cup with wins over Fiji, Tonga and USA, ninth-ranked Japan will be hopeful of at least repeating their heroics from the 2015 World Cup where one of their pool wins came when they shocked eventual semi-finalists South Africa 34-32 in Brighton.
Joseph’s squad for the finals where Japan will take on Ireland, Samoa and Scotland after opening the tournament on September 20 against Russia has Luke Thompson poised to become the sixth oldest player to have ever competed at a World Cup.
Having made a debut in the 2007 tournament held in France, Thompson will be 38 years and 157 days old by the time of the opener versus the Russians. While the Japanese will ooze experience in the likes of Thompson and skipper Michael Leitch, Joseph has included one uncapped player in his squad, rookie hooker Takuya Kitade.
That curiosity aside, the Japan coach believes his squad is primed to create history following an encouraging build-up to the finals. “The team has set a goal of making the top eight for the first time in the history of Japanese rugby,” Joseph said. “The staff and players will give 150 per cent – whether that’s enough only time will tell.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) August 29, 2019
“Our game is based around speed, skill and structure, but the key difference this year is we are fit enough now to play that game. We’re training at a level of intensity that’s 25 per cent higher than our matches – I think that’s our key weapon.”
Japan RWC 2019 squad
Forwards: Keita Inagaki, Yusuke Kizu, Koo Ji-won, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Takuya Kitade, Atsushi Sakata, Shota Horie, Luke Thompson, Wimpie van der Walt, Uwe Helu, James Moore, Hendrik Tui, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Michael Leitch (captain), Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno, Amanaki Mafi;
Backs: Kaito Shigeno, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yutaka Nagare, Yu Tamura, Rikiya Matsuda, Kenki Fukuoka, Ataata Moeakiola, Lomano Lemeki, William Tupou, Ryoto Nakamura, Timothy Lafaele, Kotaro Matsushima, Ryohei Yamanaka.
WATCH: Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip talk about the upcoming World Cup, Ireland’s recent loss and the tournament being held for the first time in Asia
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