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Joseph makes bold claim after confirming his Japan World Cup squad

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Head coach Jamie Joseph has insisted that Japan are heading to France to win the Rugby World Cup. His bold statement came after he confirmed 30 of the 33-strong squad travelling with him to Europe at the end of this week.


The 2019 quarter-finalists, who are set to depart Tokyo on August 19 ahead of their warm-up clash with Italy in Treviso seven days later, have named 15 forwards and 15 backs, with the remaining three positions to be filled ahead of the World Rugby squad announcement deadline.

Injury concerns regarding the likes of Warner Dearns, Uwe Helu and Amato Fakatava, along with the suspension of the red-carded Pieter Labuschagne, have meant a delay in the confirmation of the entire squad.

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However, of the 30 names that were confirmed on Tuesday, 13 players featured in the 2019 campaign. None are more experienced than hooker Shota Horie and back-rower Michael Leitch, who are poised to feature at their fourth finals have first appeared at New Zealand 2011.

At the other end of the scale, Joseph has named two uncapped players, prop Sione Halasili and scrum-half Kenta Fukuda, while another nine have less than 10 caps. Their selection means that the average experience across the 30 players named is just 21 Test caps each.

After the Summer Nations Series match in Italy, Japan will head to base camp in Toulouse to continue preparations for their pool matches against Chile, England, Samoa and Argentina, a campaign that begins on September 10 against the Chileans at Stadium de Toulouse.

Joseph said: “We are going into the World Cup to win it. As a tournament, if you can get to the quarter-finals, anything can happen, so our first step is to make the top eight and take things from there.


“We understand that is a massive challenge, but the team takes a lot of confidence from what we achieved in 2019, surprising the world by the way we played and how we went through our pool unbeaten. It’s our challenge to do that again in 2023.

“Recently we have had some tough results, with a couple of red cards and some serious injuries to some senior players that have really affected the team.

“But at the same time, it’s given us great preparation for the World Cup. Red and yellow cards will become an increasing feature of the modern game and every week, in every Test match, players have to be able to adjust to these moments.

“In selecting the squad, we have worked around the fact that we can’t replace or take more than 33 players, so we need to make sure all bases are covered. What that looks like in terms of specialist positions, we are taking nine front rowers, and three specialist nines and tens.


“So just under half the squad cover only five positions. In terms of the final selection, it reduces our options, so we have selected players who can focus on one position, but also have the ability to play in another one or two positions as well.”


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