Skip to content
GO TO bet365 Sports
  1. Rugby Union
  2. Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup: Japan team profile

Japan were the surprise package four years ago as they reached the quarter-finals on home soil but they have failed to kick on and their recent form hints they could struggle in France.

Confirmed Squad

Jamie Joseph's final 33-player party is as follows:


Keita Inagaki (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Craig Millar (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Sione Halasili (Yokohama Canon Eagles), Ji-won Koo (Kobelco Kobe Steelers), Shinnosuke Kakinaga (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath), Asaeli Ai Valu (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Shota Horie (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Atsushi Sakate (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Kosuke Horikoshi (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath), Amanaki Saumaki (Kobelco Kobe Steelers), Warner Dearns (Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo), Amato Fakatava (Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo), Jack Cornelsen (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Shota Fukui (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Kazuki Himeno (Toyota Verblitz), Michael Leitch (Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo), Kanji Shimokawa (Tokyo Sungoliath), Lappies Labuschagne (Kubota Spears), Ben Gunter (Saitama Wild Knights).


Naoto Saito (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath), Yutaka Nagare (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath), Kenta Fukuda (Toyota Verblitz), Seungsin Lee (Kobelco Kobe Steelers), Rikiya Matsuda (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Ryoto Nakamura (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath), Tomoki Osada (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Dylan Riley (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Siosaia Fifita (Hanazono Kintetsu Liners), Semisi Masirewa (Hanazono Kintetsu Liners), Kotaro Matsushima (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath), Jumpei Ogura (Yokohama Canon Eagles), Lomano Lemeki (Green Rockets Tokatsu), Jone Naikabula (Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo).


Former New Zealand forward Joseph will lead the Brave Blossoms into a second World Cup, after succeeding Eddie Jones in 2016. 

As well as representing his homeland, the 53-year-old also made nine appearances for Japan after spending the latter part of his playing career in the country. 

Joseph is a well-respected operator, as demonstrated by the news that he will return to New Zealand after this tournament to take up the newly created role of Head of Rugby with the Highlanders. 

The Blenheim-born coach will send his side out to play attacking, proactive rugby and can expect them to win their Pool D opener against Chile. However, life could be tougher when they face England, Samoa, who beat them 24-22 in July, and Argentina.

Possible First XV

15. Kotaro Matsushima 
14. Semisi Masirewa 
13. Dylan Riley 
12. Tomoki Osada 
11. Jone Naikabula 
10. Rikiya Matsuda 
9. Naoto Saito 
8. Kazuki Himeno 
7. Michael Leitch 
6. Jack Cornelsen 
5. Amato Fakatava 
4. James Moore 
3. Asaeli Ai Valu 
2. Shota Horie 
1. Keita Inagaki


A hallmark of Japan's play under first Jones and now Joseph is that they are technically excellent, committing the right numbers to the ruck, rarely being drawn out of the defensive line and permitting relatively few handling errors.

They are also good in the line-out, with James Moore and Michael Leitch both solid operators, while they can expect competent goal-kicking from Seungsin Lee and Rikiya Matsuda.


Both Jones and Joseph have built their success on using their team's speed and technique to ensure they move the ball away from contact as soon as possible in a bid to avoid an arm wrestle.

They were outmuscled by both Samoa and Fiji in the recent Pacific Nations Cup and only just had enough to get past Tonga.

While they should be able to handle Chile's forwards, the Brave Blossoms' pack may come unstuck against the physicality of the other teams in the pool. 

Key Players

Keita Inagaki

A try scorer in the win over Scotland at the World Cup in 2019, loosehead prop Keita Inagaki will be looking to steady the Japan scrum against their formidable opponents.

Inagaki is also a decent carrier with underrated handling skills and rarely takes a backwards step.

Michael Leitch

Leitch was born in New Zealand but first moved to Japan at 15 as part of a school exchange programme and has become an icon of his adopted country's rugby scene.

Capable of playing across the back-row, the captain's physicality is complemented by his handling skills and it is no secret that when he plays well, Japan tend to do the same.

Kotaro Matsushima

Born in South Africa but having spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, Kotaro Matsushima provides real stardust to his country's back-line.

Matsushima scored four tries in 2019 and while he may have struggled to consistently reproduce that form over the last four years, he seems to save his best for the big stage.

A switch from wing to full-back also means he has more chance to get his hands on the ball, allowing him to create as well as score

Ones to watch 

Shota Horie

Another breakout star four years ago, hooker Shota Horie's abrasive carrying and accurate throwing in at the line-out allowed his team to build a strong platform on home soil.

At 37, he may not have the same dynamism but his passion means he could still play a big role either as a starter or off the bench.

Semisi Masirewa

A relative newcomer to the international scene, Semisi Masirewa was born in Fiji, schooled in New Zealand and played professionally in Australia before heading to Japan.

The 31-year-old winger is an impressive carrier, mixing power with fine handling and could dovetail nicely with Matsushima.


  • To Reach the Final - 66/1

All odds correct at time of publishing and subject to change.

Related Articles

bet365 uses cookies

We use cookies to deliver a better and more personalised service. For more information, see our Cookie Policy

New to bet365? Bet £10 & Get £30 in Free Bets Join Now

Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of qualifying bets. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.