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2010-10-25 19:40

Nickname: The Cherry Blossoms / Brave Blossoms

Captain: Takashi Kikutani

Coach: John Kirwan

RWC Appearances: 6 (First in 1987)

Best result: third in pool 1991

Japan (often known as "The Cherry Blossoms" or more recently "Brave Blossoms") are traditionally the strongest rugby union power in Asia but have enjoyed and endured mixed results against non-Asian teams in their history.

They compete annually in the Pacific Nations Cup and the Asian Five Nations and have also participated in every Rugby World Cup since the tournament began in 1987. However, they have only ever won one game at the tournament, against Zimbabwe in 1991.

Rugby was introduced to Japan in 1899 and Japan's first international was a match against a Canadian team in 1932. Notable games for Japan include a victory over the Junior All Blacks in 1968, and a narrow 6-3 loss to England in 1971.

Japan's most famous victory so far is a 28-24 victory over Scotland in 1989. In the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Japan drew 12-12 against Canada, their second best result in the tournament.

Under ex-All Black John Kirwan, who declared his intention from the outset to pursue a Japanese brand of rugby which expresses the "Samurai Spirit", Japan beat Hong Kong 52-3 and Korea 54-0 in November 2006 to secure its place in Pool B with ease at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

In the first game under Kirwan against Korea on April 22, 2007 the Cherry Blossoms won easily, 82-0 and seven new players were introduced. James Arlidge scored two tries of the fourteen, and converted ten out of ten.

However, in their performance at the 2007 Rugby World Cup they failed to win a match. A second-string team lost 91-3 to Australia and the first team drew 12-12 against Canada and then lost to eventual quarter finalists Fiji by just 4 points (31-35).

Japan 74-18 Wales in Cardiff, but in the process scored a spectacular length-of-the-field try through Kosuke Endo that many regarded as the best in the tournament. They came fourth in their pool ahead of Canada and behind Wales, thanks to the bonus point earned against Fiji.

In the 2008 HSBC Asian Five Nations Japan won all four of its games to become the first Asian Five Nations champions on May 18, 2008. They will look to continue building their brand of rugby and secure their first win in World Cup competition in 2011.


Forwards: Hisateru Hirashima, Naoki Kawamata, Tateo Kanai, Yusuke Aoki, Shota Horie, Hiroki Yuhara, Takeshi Kizu, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Hiroshi Yamashita, Nozomu Fujita, Hitoshi Ono, Toshizumi Kitagawa, Luke Thompson, Yuji Kitagawa, Shinya Makabe, Justin Ives, Takashi Kikutani, Toetuu Taufa, Michael Leitch, Tadasuke Nishihara, Ryukoliniasi Holani, Itaru Taniguchi.

Backs: Fumiaki Tanaka, Koji Wada, Ippei Asada, Atsushi Hiwasa, James Arlidge, Shaun Webb, Ryohei Yamanaka, Yuta Imamura, Ryan Nicholas, Koji Taira, Alisi Tupuailai, Taihei Ueda, Hirotoki Onozawa, Kosuke Endo, Akihito Yamada, Takeshisa Usuzuki, Go Aruga, Atsushi Tanabe, Bryce Robins.

Key Players

James Arlidge
Height: 1.85m
Weight: 92kgs

Born in New Zealand, Japan's flyhalf/fullback Arlidge is a prodigious placekicker and try scorer, and was the top scorer in the 2008 IRB Pacific Nations Cup.


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