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Japanese stalwart on track for fourth World Cup

Japan's Luke Thompson will be playing in his fourth World Cup when his nation hosts the 2019 tournament. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Luke Thompson will play at a fourth Rugby World Cup after being included in tournament host Japan’s squad.

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The 38-year-old New Zealand-born lock was one of the more experienced players named in Jamie Joseph’s 31-man party for the tournament which runs from September 20 to November 2.

Forward Takuya Kitade, one of three hookers in the squad along with Shota Horie and Atsushi Sakate, is the only uncapped player.

The Brave Blossoms, who will be captained by New Zealand-born loose forward Michael Leitch for the second successive World Cup, will be hoping they can ride a strong run of form and get out of the pool stages for the first time.

They came close to reaching the quarter-finals in 2015 in England where they famously stunned South Africa in the biggest upset in the history of the global showpiece.

They will go into their campaign next month brimming with confidence after trouncing Fiji, Tonga and the United States to take the Pacific Nations Cup and moving up to ninth in the world, matching their highest-ever ranking.

Japan will have a chance to test themselves against top-tier competition on September 6 in a warm-up match against the Springboks, their first meeting since the World Cup four years ago.

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Joseph’s side will kick off the World Cup against Russia on September 20 in Tokyo. They will also play Ireland, Samoa and Scotland in Pool A.

Squad:

Forwards – Michael Leitch (capt), Keita Inagaki, Yusuke Kizu, Jiwon Koo, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Valu, Takuya Kitade, Atsushi Sakate, Shota Horie, Luke Thompson, Wimpie van der Walt, Uwe Helu, James Moore, Hendrik Tui, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 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.

– AAP

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Jon 1 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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