Cape Town - Japan coach Jamie Joseph has named a 33-man squad for June's
upcoming Test matches against Italy and Georgia, which includes just one new
Flank Masakatsu Nishikawa, who turned 31 last week and plays
for the Sunwolves, is the only fresh face among the group.
"Nishikawa has played consistently good rugby for
Suntory for the last two years and shown the mettle and resilience I am looking
for," Joseph said.
"It's not common to make your test debut at that age
but I give you another player by comparison in Frank Bunce who became an All
Black at 31 and went on to become the most capped centre in New Zealand prior
to Conrad Smith."
Joseph also confirmed that John Plumtree - who had a big
influence on the Brave Blossoms in November 2017, when they beat Tonga and drew
with France - would resume as defence coach.
"John has committed to joining the national team for
the June tests and will be part of the Japan coaching panel for the November
tests, and we have just about finalized his commitment to 2019," Joseph
"Obviously his recent promotion to head coach of the
Hurricanes has seen a change in his personal plans, but we are confident we
will have John through the World Cup and the World Cup preparations."
The Brave Blossoms take on Italy on June 9 and 16 in Oita
and Kobe, respectively, before they play Georgia on June 23 in Toyota city, and
Joseph said they presented good challenges ahead of the World Cup.
"Italy and Georgia are both set piece teams with very
strong scrums, line-outs and mauls and exactly the type of challenge we need
going into games against the All Blacks and England at the end of the year and
as we prepare for the World Cup."
Forwards: Shintaro Ishihara, Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate,
Yusuke Niwai, Shota Horie, Takuma Asahara, Koo Ji Won, Genki Sudo; Samuela
Anise, Wimpie van der Walt, Uwe Helu, Shinya Makabe, Yoshitaka Tokunaga,
Masakatsu Nishikawa, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Michael Leitch, Shunsuke Nunomaki,
Backs: Fumiaki Tanaka, Keisuke Uchida, Yutaka Nagare, Yu
Tamura, Rikiya Matsuda, Kenki Fukuoka, Akihito Yamada, Lomano Lava Lemeki,
Sione Teaupa, Harumichi Tatekawa, Ryoto Nakamura, Timothy Lafaele, William
Tupou; Kotaro Matsushima, Ryuji Noguchi