Rugby World Cup 2023: Team Japan Record and Tentative Squad

Japan national team has competed in every RWC since the inception of the world event in 1987. They are the only team to advance beyond the Asian regional qualifying round for the Rugby World Cup.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup is thought to be their best year in aspect of performance. The “greatest Rugby World Cup des Nations shock ever,” is when Japan defeated South Africa 34-32 in their first game of group play.

In pool play, they defeated Samoa and the United States. Like Scotland and South Africa, they won three of their four group games, but Japan did not receive any extra points, preventing the other two from moving on to the quarterfinals.

At the 1991 tournament, Japan defeated Zimbabwe 52-8 under the coach Hiroaki Shukuzawa. Their greatest loss was in a 145-17 setback to New Zealand at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The 2003 World Cup was hosted in Australia. Japan managed a last-second conversion at the 2007 Rugby World Cup to tie with Canada and escape finishing bottom in Pool B. However, they failed to pick up any victories and were eliminated before the tournament’s knockout round.

At the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Japan served as the tournament’s first host nation and advanced to the quarterfinals.

  • RWC debut: 24 May, 1987 – v USA at Ballymore, Brisbane
  • RWC appearances: Played 33 – Won 8 Draw 2 Lost 23 – Points for 644 Points against 1,347 – Win ratio 24 percent
  • Most RWC appearances: Luke Thompson, 14
  • Most RWC tries: Kotaro Matsushima, 6
  • Best finish: Quarter-finalists (2019)
  • Qualification for RWC 2023: Quarter-finalists in 2019

Read More: Japan Schedule

Most Famous Victory

It must be the 2015 Rugby World Cup’s “Miracle of Brighton,” Japan’s ground-breaking, impossible-to-predict 34-32 victory. The Brave Blossoms weren’t given much hope of defeating the formidable Springboks since they hadn’t won RWC match in 24 years and had only one win in the same number of matches against Zimbabwe. However, South Africa suffered from Japan’s fast-paced rugby style and was the victim of the greatest upset in Rugby World Cup history.

Most Memorable Moment

On the pitch, you can see the pure joy on the players’ and supporters’ faces when Karne Hesketh scores the game-winning try for Japan against the Springboks in 2015. Off-field – the announcement that Typhoon Hagibis’ massive clean-up effort had not gone in vain and that Japan’s important group match against Scotland would go ahead.

Lowest Point

Allowing the All Blacks to score a record 145 points in 1995.

Top Player

‘Captain Fantastic’ Michael Leitch of Japan. With a great victory percentage of 71% throughout his tenure in command, he led Japan to a record-tying seven times at Rugby World Cup from the blindside. Despite being Japanese, he was born in New Zealand and is one of them. A national survey in 2019 ranked him second only to the Prime Minister in terms of popularity in Japan.

Top Record Breaker

Full-back who can kick goals. After his success in England in 2015, Ayumu Goromaru became the face of Japanese rugby. In the victory versus South Africa, Goromaru scored a try and contributed a tournament-high 24 points, setting a record. He ended the competition with 58 points from four outings.

Japan Tentative Squad

Jamie Joseph named his first training squad of the year for a camp in June.


Keita Inagaki, Craig Miller, Sione Halasili, Ji-won Koo, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Asaeli Ai Valu, Shota Horie, Atsushi Sakate, Kosuke Horikoshi, James Moore, Uwe Helu, Amanaki Saumaki, Warner Dearns, Amato Fakatava, Jack Cornelsen, Shota Fukui, Kazuki Himeno, Michael Leitch, Faulua Makisi


Naoto Saito, Yutaka Nagare, Kenta Fukuda, Seungsin Lee, Rikiya Matsuda, Nicholas McCurran, Ryodo Nakamura, Tomoki Osada, Shogo Nakano, Dylan Riley, Siosaia Fifita, Haruto Kida, Semisi Masirewa, Jone Naikabula, Kotaro Matsushima, Ryohei Yamanaka, Jumpei Ogura 

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