Japan national rugby union team

Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s)Cherry Blossoms/Brave Blossoms/Sakuras
UnionJapan Rugby Football Union
Head coachJamie Joseph
CaptainMichael Leitch
Most capsHitoshi Ono (98)
Top scorerAyumu Goromaru (708)
Top try scorerDaisuke Ohata (69)
Home stadiumJapan National Stadium
Chichibunomiya Stadium
First colours
Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current10 (as of 8 November 2021)
Highest7 (2019)
Lowest20 (2003, 2006)
First international
Japan 9–8 Canada 
(Osaka, Japan; 31 January 1932)
Biggest win
Japan 155–3 Chinese Taipei 
(Tokyo, Japan; 1 July 2002)
Biggest defeat
 New Zealand 145–17 Japan
(Bloemfontein, South Africa; 4 June 1995)
World Cup
Appearances9 (First in 1987)
Best resultQuarter-finals, 2019
(in English)

The Japan national rugby union team, often known as the Cherry Blossoms, Sakura, and more recently The Brave Blossoms (ブレイブ・ブロッサムズ - Bureibu burossamuzu) is traditionally the strongest rugby union power in Asia and has enjoyed and endured mixed results against non-Asian teams over the years. Rugby union in Japan is administered by the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU), which was founded in 1926. They compete annually in the Pacific Nations Cup and previously in the Asia Rugby Championship. They have also participated in every Rugby World Cup since the tournament began in 1987.

Rugby was first played in Japan's treaty ports as early as 1866. Popular participation by local university teams was established in 1899 and Japan's first recorded international match 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. Famous wins by Japan include a 28–24 victory over a Scotland XV in 1989 and a 23–8 victory over Wales in 2013. In 2011, Japan displayed its progress by winning the 2011 IRB Pacific Nations Cup, played against Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Further progress was displayed in 2014 when Japan completed a string of ten consecutive test wins (a record for a tier 2 team) to rank in the world's top 10 teams.[1] This continued into 2015 where they produced the first of their three biggest upsets when, in a Rugby World Cup pool match against South Africa, they won 34–32.[2][3][4]

In the years between, Japan faced quality opposition, playing relatively well with solid results including a tie against France, and a narrow loss to Wales at Cardiff. Their second shock win was a 19–12 defeat of world number-two ranked Ireland in a 2019 Rugby World Cup pool game. Emerging undefeated from the tournament's pool stage after a 28–21 victory over Scotland, Japan made their first-ever World Cup quarter-final appearance, going down 3–26 to eventual world champions South Africa.[5][6]


Rugby football game in Yokohama, 1874

The first recorded instance of a team being established and rugby being played in Japan was in 1866 with the founding of the Yokohama Foot Ball Club. Games, mainly between service personnel, were played on the Garrison Parade Ground in Yamate, Yokohama.[7] In 1874 records also illustrate British sailors staging a game in Yokohama. Other games were played at other treaty ports such as Kobe between teams of long-term foreign residents and visiting ships' crews and garrisons, but they rarely involved Japanese players. The date of local Japanese participation in the sport is most frequently cited as 1899, when students at Keio University were introduced to the game by Professor Edward Bramwell Clarke and Ginnosuke Tanaka both graduates of Cambridge University.

The formation of a national team and effectively Japan's first international match took place in Osaka on 31 January 1932 when a trade delegation from Canada to Japan supported an overseas tour by the Canada national rugby union team. The Japanese won this first match 9–8. In a second test match in Tokyo 11 days later again the Japanese side beat the Canadians 38–5.[8]

Japan beat the Junior All Blacks 23–19 in 1968 after losing the first four matches on a tour of New Zealand, but they won the last five. The Japanese (coached by Waseda University Professor Onishi Tetsunosuke) lost by just 3–6 to England in Tokyo on 29 September 1971 in the RFU's centenary year. The 1973 Japan rugby union tour of Wales, England and France was less successful with the side winning only two of their eleven matches, and losing the international matches against Wales and France. Ten years later Japan gave Wales a fright in losing by a slim five-point margin, 24–29, at Cardiff Arms Park on 2 October 1983.

On 28 May 1989, a strong Japan coached by Hiroaki Shukuzawa defeated an uncapped Scotland, missing nine British Lions on tour in Australia, for the first time at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, 28–24. The Japan team included such Kobe Steel stalwarts as centre Seiji Hirao (captain), and locks Atsushi Oyagi and Toshiyuki Hayashi (38 Japan caps and a member of Oxford University's all-time best XV). Sinali Latu at No. 8 was then a fourth year student at Daito Bunka University, and speedy Yoshihito Yoshida on the wing (no. 14) was a third year at Meiji University. Scotland missed an incredible seven penalties and refused the kicking tee which was generously offered – as a surviving video of the game shows. It was almost the same Japanese team which defeated Zimbabwe in RWC1991.

Under Shogo Mukai (2001–2003)

After Hirao resigned, Toshiba Brave Lupus coach Shogo Mukai was appointed in March 2001 to lead Japan up to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. After mixed fortunes in his first two years in charge, Japan put in some impressive performances at the tournament with good efforts against Scotland and France, nevertheless they still left the tournament having failed to reach their target of winning some matches but still won admirers for their exciting brand of play. Mukai left his post after the tournament to spend more time with his family.

Under Mitsutake Hagimoto (2004–2005)

After Shogo Mukai left after the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the JRFU initially tried to appoint Eddie Jones from his post with Australia but were unsuccessful and instead appointed Mitsutake Hagimoto in March 2004 after he won the inaugural Top League with the Kobelco Steelers. Under Hagimoto, Japan decided they would not select foreign born players after Mukai had been criticised for playing too many at the World Cup.

Hagimoto's first match in charge was a disappointing draw with Korea, but his first few matches in charge after that were promising with wins over Russia and Canada to win the Super Powers Cup and pushed Italy close losing 32–19.

However, in November 2004, Japan went on a disastrous tour to Europe where they were embarrassingly thrashed 100–8 by Scotland and 98–0 by Wales and also were comfortably defeated by Romania. Japan's performances were described as "pathetic", and the squad was called "a joke" with some key players ignored or not given permission to travel.

This disastrous tour forced a rethink from Hagimoto and foreign born players were brought back into the side in 2005, but after losing twice to Ireland in June he was sacked and with just 5 wins from 15 matches was the least successful coach for Japan in the professional era.

Under Jean-Pierre Élissalde (2005–2006)

Japan play Tonga at Honjo stadium on 4 June 2006

After Hagimoto left his post at the end of June 2005, Jean-Pierre Élissalde who had been appointed backs coach three months earlier took full charge and became the first foreigner to be the head coach for Japan. His first match in charge was a 44–29 win over Spain in November 2005.

In 2006, despite a disappointing campaign in the inaugural Pacific Nations Cup in June where Japan lost all their matches, and also lost to heavily to Italy 52–6, Élissalde was backed to lead the side to the 2007 Rugby World Cup. But Élissalde was later sacked in September after he took on a job with Bayonne without consulting the JRFU and then refused to give up his job with them.[9] Assistant coach Osamu Ota took over as caretaker coach for two Rugby World Cup qualifiers in November 2006.

Under John Kirwan (2007–2011)

Japan plays Australia A on 8 June 2008

John Kirwan was appointed head coach on in October 2006 after Elissalde was sacked. He initially worked as an advisor to caretaker coach Osamu Ota before taking over the job completely in 2007.

After starting with large wins over the Asian opposition, Japan only won one of their remaining 10 fixtures in 2007, although in the 2007 Rugby World Cup they did gain a draw with a last minute touchline conversion from Shotaro Onishi against Canada to end a long losing streak of World Cup matches stretching back to 1991.

Results began to pick up after the 2007 World Cup and Kirwan led Japan up to a high of 13th in the IRB Rankings and to win their first ever Pacific Nations Cup title in 2011 after they beat Fiji away for the first ever time in Japan's history.

However, despite more positive results in between World Cups, Japan had a disappointing 2011 Rugby World Cup, losing 31–18 to Tonga who they had beaten four times in a row since 2008, and drawing again to Canada who they had beaten 46–8 and 27–6 in 2009, and Japan left the World Cup winless meaning they still had not won a match at the tournament since 1991. Kirwan came under pressure after the tournament and he resigned from his post after his contract came to the end at the end of the year.

The tenure of Kirwan as coach was notable for a large number of imports he selected. Players who originated from New Zealand such as James Arlidge, Bryce Robins, Shaun Webb, Ryan Nicholas, Luke Thompson or Tonga such as Alisi Tupuailei and Sione Vatuvei all featured prominently under Kirwan. The large percentage of foreigners in the national team also caused criticism for Kirwan. However, despite failing to bring Japan a World Cup win, Kirwan left his post as the most successful Japan coach of the professional era with a win rate of 58.18% from 55 matches.

Under Eddie Jones (2012–2015)

Kirwan chose not to renew his contract as head coach when it expired at the end of 2011, and the Japan Rugby Football Union announced that former Australia coach Eddie Jones would be his successor.[10] Jones stated that his intention was to take the Japanese national team into the top 10 on the international rankings, and that they must develop a style of play to allow them to win games against teams such as Scotland.

Jones made his debut as Japan head coach against Kazakhstan. He had selected a total of 10 uncapped players out of the 22 selected players. They went on to win the match 87–0. They then had a big win over United Arab Emirates where young 18-year-old Yoshikazu Fujita set a new Asian Five Nations record for the most tries in a single match with a total of 6. This was also Fujita's international debut.[11]

In 2013, Jones led Japan to their sixth consecutive championship win in the Asian Five Nations, where Japan achieved a tournament record score of 121–0 against the Philippines. In May, the nation lost their opening match of the 2013 IRB Pacific Nations Cup to Tonga, followed by a defeat to Fiji in the second round. Following these matches, Japan faced a 2-test series against Wales. Japan lost narrowly, 18–22, in the first test, but won the second test 23–8, and the series ended in a 1–1 draw. This was the first time that Japan had recorded a victory over the Welsh.

On 16 October 2013, Jones was hospitalised after having a suspected stroke and was released from hospital 2 days later on 18 October 2013.[12][13] After his release from hospital, it was announced that Jones would miss Japan's 2013 end-of-year rugby union tests against New Zealand, Scotland, Gloucester, Russia and Spain, and former Australia skills coach and current technical adviser for Japan Scott Wisemantel would interim coach Japan for their 2013 end-of-year rugby union tests.[14]

Jamie Joseph giving a speech at a Sunwolves match on 12 May 2018

On 19 September 2015, Japan stunned South Africa by a last minute try from Karne Hesketh to win 34–32 in their opening group pool game at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Brighton, England. BBC reported the win as "arguably the biggest upset in rugby union history".[15] In 2015, Japan became the first team in World Cup history to win three pool games but still be eliminated at the group stage, due to their heavy loss to Scotland.[16]

Under Jamie Joseph (2016–present)

Jamie Joseph, former coach of New Zealand's Highlanders Super Rugby team and the Māori All Blacks, took over as head coach for Japan (and the Sunwolves Super Rugby team) in 2016. In the 2017 Asia Rugby Championship, Japan sealed their twelfth consecutive Asia Rugby Championship, winning all four games. They went on to defeat Romania 33–21 in the 2017 June rugby union tests, but lost to Ireland 2–0, during their first test series since 2005, losing the first test 50–22 and the second 35–13. In November 2017, Joseph led his side to a single win and a draw in four games. They started their End-of-year series with two consecutive home losses, a 27–47 loss to a World XV side and a 30–63 loss to Australia. Japan's first win came against Tonga 39–6 in Toulouse, France, before going on to draw with France 23–23, which was the first time that these two nations had drawn with one another.

During the 2018 June tests, Joseph led Japan to a 1–all series draw with Italy, winning the first test 34–17, and losing the second 25–22. The team then beat Georgia 28–0 at the Toyota Stadium.

In 2019, Japan won the Pacific Nations Cup with wins against Fiji, Tonga and the United States, with no losses.

Japan hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and the team repeated their feat of a shock win in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup, this time beating world No. 2-ranked Ireland 19–12 at Shizuoka Stadium in Fukuroi, Shizuoka[17][18] They reached the quarter-finals for the first time in the team's history after beating Scotland 28–21 at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama that was battered by Typhoon Hagibis only the night before.[19]


Japan traditionally plays with white and red hooped shirts (with white collar and cuffs) with a Sakura embroidered on the chest, paired with white shorts and white socks with red splashes. Between 2003 and 2011, the shirt was predominantly red with two white parallel hoops on the chest with white accents, sometimes with black or navy socks and shorts.

Since its first test against Canada in 1930, Japan played with the traditional hooped red and white shirts, the emblem on the shirt originally depicted the Sakura as "bud, half-open and full-bloomed".[20] The current version of the emblem, depicting three full-bloomed Sakura, was dated 1952, when Japan played against Oxford University XV[21] at Hanazono, Higashi-Osaka, on 1 October 1952.[22]

On 4 July 2019 the Japan Rugby Football Union on Thursday unveiled the national team's jersey for this year's Rugby World Cup, the shirt featuring a samurai helmet motif representing the tradition of Japan's warrior spirit. The combination of Samurai and Sakura (Cherry Blossom) has long been linked in Japanese culture.

The away kit usually consist of a navy blue uniform, white or navy shorts and navy blue socks, sometimes with white collar or panels, or black. The kit supplier since the 1997 is Canterbury. Before that,, the kits were manufactured by Japanese company Sceptre between 1987 and 1995[23][24] and in 1982, by Suzuki Sports.[25] Currently, the jersey sponsors are Lipovitan D (in the front) and Toshiba (in the back). Previously, between 1997 and 2001, the shirt sponsor was Japan Telecom.

Home kit


Away kit


List of matches

Wins against Tier 1 nations

Additionally, Japan tied  France 23–23 in Paris, 25 November 2017.[26]

3 June 1968[27]Junior All Blacks  19–23Japan Japan New Zealand Athletic Park, Wellington 
Try: Mike O'Callaghan
??? (2)
Con: ??? (2)
Pen: ??? (2)
Try: Yoshihiro Sakata (4)
Akira Yokoi
Tadayuki Ito
Con: Tsutomu Katsuraguchi
Pen: Tsutomu Katsuraguchi
Attendance: 25,000
Referee: RC Fenton
28 May 1989Japan Japan 28–24 Scotland XV Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo 
15 September 1998Japan Japan 44–29 Argentina Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo 
Try: McCormick
Watanabe (2)
Con: Murata (3)
Pen: Murata (4)
Drop: Ken Iwabuchi (2)
ReportTry: Corleto
Con: Fuselli
Drop: Fuselli
Attendance: 20,000
Referee: Italy Giovanni Morandin (Italy)
15 June 2013Japan Japan 23–8 Wales Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo 
14:00 JST (UTC+9)Try: Wing 49' c
Broadhurst 60' c
Con: Goromaru (2/2) 49', 61'
Pen: Goromaru (3/3) 14', 34', 76'
ReportTry: Prydie 44' m
Pen: Biggar (1/2) 21'
Attendance: 21,062
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
21 June 2014Japan Japan 26–23 Italy Japan Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo 
14:00 JST (UTC+09)Try: Yamada 4' c
Sa'u 59' c
Con: Goromaru (2/2) 5', 60'
Pen: Goromaru (4/5) 13', 22', 42', 48'
(In Italian)[28]
Try: Penalty try 17' c
Barbieri 74' c
Con: Orquera (1/1) 17'
Allan (1/1) 75'
Pen: Orquera (3/3) 7', 35', 52'
Attendance: 13,816
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
19 September 2015South Africa  32–34 Japan England Falmer Stadium, Brighton 
16:45Try: Louw 18' c
B. Du Plessis 33' m
De Jager 44' c
Strauss 62' c
Con: Lambie (2/3) 19', 45'
Pollard (1/1) 63'
Pen: Lambie (1/1) 54'
Pollard (1/1) 73'
Try: Leitch 30' c
Goromaru 69' c
Hesketh 80' m
Con: Goromaru (2/3) 31', 70'
Pen: Goromaru (5/6) 8', 43', 49', 53', 60'
Attendance: 29,290
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
9 June 2018Japan  34–17 Italy Japan Oita Bank Dome, Oita 
14:45 JST (UTC+09)Try: Mafi 17' c
Fukuoka 27' c
Lemeki 60' c
Matsushima 65' c
Con: Tamura (4/4) 19', 29', 62', 67'
Pen: Tamura (2/3) 33', 57'
Try: Pasquali 14' c
Steyn 35' c
Con: Allan (2/2) 16', 37'
Pen: Allan (1/1) 51'
Attendance: 25,824
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
28 September 2019Japan  19–12 Ireland Japan Shizuoka Stadium, Fukuroi 
16:15 JST (UTC+09)Try: Fukuoka 59' c
Con: Tamura (1/1) 61'
Pen: Tamura (4/6) 18', 34', 40', 72'
Try: Ringrose 14' m
Rob Kearney 21' c
Con: Carty (1/2) 22'
Attendance: 47,813
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
13 October 2019Japan  28–21 Scotland Japan International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama 
16:15 JST (UTC+09)Try: Matsushima 18' c
Inagaki 26' c
Fukuoka (2) 40' c, 43' c
Con: Tamura (4/4) 20', 27', 40+2', 44'
ReportTry: Russell 7' c
Nel 50' c
Fagerson 55' c
Con: Laidlaw (2/2) 8', 51'
Russell (1/1) 56'
Attendance: 67,666
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)


Top 20 as of 21 March 2022[29]
1Steady South Africa090.61
2Increase1 France088.88
3Decrease1 New Zealand088.75
4Steady Ireland088.22
5Steady England084.50
6Steady Australia083.92
7Steady Scotland081.80
8Increase1 Argentina080.58
9Decrease1 Wales079.28
10Steady Japan078.26
11Steady Fiji076.62
12Increase1 Georgia073.78
13Decrease1 Samoa073.59
14Steady Italy072.33
15Steady Spain068.26
16Steady Tonga067.72
17Increase1 Romania066.95
18Decrease1 United States066.54
19Steady Uruguay066.40
20Steady Portugal065.72
21Steady Canada061.80
22Steady Hong Kong061.23
23Steady Chile059.88
24Steady Namibia059.72
25Steady Russia058.06
26Steady Netherlands056.31
27Steady Belgium055.74
28Increase1 Brazil053.31
29Increase1 South Korea053.11
30Decrease2 Poland052.91
* Change from the previous week
Japan's historical rankings
See or edit source data.
Source: World Rugby[29]
Graph updated to 21 March 2022

Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by a Japan national XV to 20 November 2021.[30]

OpponentPlayedWonLostDrawnWin %ForAgaDiff
Arabian Gulf3300100.0%25620+236
 Australia A40400.0%51242−191
Australia Australian Universities624033.3%6090−30
Australia Emerging Wallabies210150.0%4139+2
British & Irish Lions10100.0%1028-18
Canada British Columbia Bears622233.3%10382+21
 Chinese Taipei4400100.0%47427+447
 England XV50500.0%71131−60
 England Saxons20200.0%3092−62
England England Students10100.0%043−43
England England Under-23's20200.0%2577−52
England Cambridge University413025.0%52110−58
England Oxford University40400.0%28130−102
England Oxford and Cambridge30300.0%30113−83
 France XV60600.0%31272−241
 Hong Kong29244182.8%1175370+805
 Ireland XV20200.0%2881−53
Ireland Ireland Students10100.0%1224−12
 South Korea36296180.1%1614517+1097
 New Zealand40400.0%61351−290
 New Zealand XV20200.0%4180−176
 Junior All Blacks817012.5%98337−239
New Zealand New Zealand Universities15211213.3%221417−196
Australia Queensland Reds10100.0%642−36
 Scotland XV413025.0%64165−101
 South Africa312033.4%4499−55
 Sri Lanka3300100.0%26629+237
 United Arab Emirates3300100.0%3106+304
 United States241013141.7%560675−115
 Wales XV40400.0%56229−173
Wales Welsh Clubs10100.0%963−54


  • Japan Shigeru Kayama (1930–1934)
  • Japan Chuji Kitajima (1936, 1956)
  • Japan Takenosuke Okumura (1952–1953)
  • Japan Kozo Nishino (1958)
  • Japan Tomoo Chiba (1959)
  • Japan Masao Wada (1959)
  • Japan Kasai Yasujiro (1963)
  • Japan Onishi Tetsunosuke (1966–1971)
  • Japan Hitoshi Oka (1972, 1975, 1985–1986)
  • Japan Hisashi Yokoi (1972, 1976, 1978–1979)
  • Japan Ryo Saito (1974, 1976–1978, 1980–1981)
  • Japan Hiroshi Hibino (1976, 1982–1984, 1987–1988)
  • Japan Katsumi Miyaji (1978, 1984, 1987)
  • Japan Ryozo Imazato (1979)
  • Japan Iwao Yamamoto (1980, 1982, 1996)
  • Japan Hiroaki Shukuzawa (1989–1991)
  • Japan Osamu Koyabu (1992–1995)
  • Japan Seiji Hirao (1997–2000)
  • Japan Shogo Mukai (2001–2003)
  • Japan Mitsutake Hagimoto (2004–2005)
  • France Jean-Pierre Élissalde (2005–2006)
  • Japan Osamu Ota (2006) (Caretaker)
  • New Zealand John Kirwan (2007–2011)
  • Australia Eddie Jones (2012–2015)
  • Australia Scott Wisemantel (2013) (Caretaker)[14]
  • Japan Ryuji Nakatake (April–May 2016) (Interim)[31]
  • New Zealand Mark Hammett (June 2016) (Interim)[31]
  • New Zealand Japan Jamie Joseph (2016–present)[32]

Current squad

On 25 October, a 39-man squad for the 2021 end-of-year rugby union internationals was announced.[33] On 28 October, Yuya Odo and Naoki Ozawa withdrew from the squad, and were replaced by Warner Dearns.[34] On 29 October, Daichi Akiyama withdrew from the squad due to injury.[35] On 2 November, Naohiro Kotaki was added to the squad.[36]

Caps updated: 15 November 2021

PlayerPositionDate of birth (age)CapsClub/province
Kosuke HorikoshiHooker (1995-06-02) 2 June 19954Tokyo Sungoliath
Yusuke NiwaiHooker (1991-10-22) 22 October 199110Yokohama Canon Eagles
Atsushi SakateHooker (1993-06-21) 21 June 199326Saitama Wild Knights
Asaeli Ai ValuProp (1989-05-07) 7 May 198919Saitama Wild Knights
Shunsuke AsaokaProp (1996-06-24) 24 June 19960Toyota Verblitz
Keita InagakiProp (1990-06-02) 2 June 199038Saitama Wild Knights
Koo Ji-wonProp (1994-07-20) 20 July 199418Kobelco Kobe Steelers
Shinnosuke KakinagaProp (1991-12-19) 19 December 19919Tokyo Sungoliath
Craig MillarProp (1990-10-29) 29 October 19905Saitama Wild Knights
Isileli NakajimaProp (1989-07-09) 9 July 19899Kobelco Kobe Steelers
Warner DearnsLock (2002-04-11) 11 April 20021Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Naohiro KotakiLock (1992-06-13) 13 June 199211Kobelco Kobe Steelers
James MooreLock (1993-06-11) 11 June 199312Shining Arcs Tokyo-Bay Urayasu
Jack CornelsenBack row (1994-10-13) 13 October 19945Saitama Wild Knights
Shota FukuiBack row (1999-09-28) 28 September 19990Saitama Wild Knights
Ben GunterBack row (1997-10-24) 24 October 19972Saitama Wild Knights
Kazuki HimenoBack row (1994-07-27) 27 July 199421Toyota Verblitz
Lappies Labuschagné (c)Back row (1989-01-11) 11 January 198912Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay
Michael LeitchBack row (1988-10-07) 7 October 198871Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Faulua MakisiBack row (1997-01-20) 20 January 19973Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay
Tevita TatafuBack row (1996-01-02) 2 January 19968Tokyo Sungoliath
Yoshitaka TokunagaBack row (1992-04-10) 10 April 199215Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Yutaka NagareScrum-half (1992-09-04) 4 September 199226Tokyo Sungoliath
Naoto SaitoScrum-half (1997-08-26) 26 August 19975Tokyo Sungoliath
Kaito ShigenoScrum-half (1990-11-21) 21 November 199013Toyota Verblitz
Rikiya MatsudaFly-half (1994-05-03) 3 May 199428Saitama Wild Knights
Yu TamuraFly-half (1989-01-09) 9 January 198967Yokohama Canon Eagles
Timothy LafaeleCentre (1991-08-19) 19 August 199127Kobelco Kobe Steelers
Ryoto NakamuraCentre (1991-06-03) 3 June 199129Tokyo Sungoliath
Dylan RileyCentre (1997-05-02) 2 May 19973Saitama Wild Knights
Siosaia FifitaWing (1998-12-20) 20 December 19985Hanazono Kintetsu Liners
Lomano LemekiWing (1989-01-20) 20 January 198916Green Rockets Tokatsu
Kotaro MatsushimaWing (1993-02-26) 26 February 199343France Clermont
Shogo NakanoWing (1997-06-11) 11 June 19971Tokyo Sungoliath
Jone NaikabulaWing (1994-04-12) 12 April 19940Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
Taichi TakahashiWing (1996-06-24) 24 June 19960Toyota Verblitz
Ryuji NoguchiFullback (1995-07-15) 15 July 199513Saitama Wild Knights
Ryohei YamanakaFullback (1988-06-22) 22 June 198821Kobelco Kobe Steelers

Notable former players

  • Toshiyuki Hayashi, legendary lock with Kobe Steel, Oxford and Japan.
  • Seiji Hirao, centre, former Japan captain and coach of Japan (RWC1999).
  • Keiji Hirose, former fly-half, and previously the leading points scorer for Japan (now second).
  • Kensuke Iwabuchi, the first Japanese to play professional rugby in England (for Saracens), also technical adviser to Sanix.
  • Toru Kurihara, world record points scorer in one match, 60 points scored individually (6 Tries, 15 conversions).
  • Sinali Latu, now coach of Daito Bunka University RFC.
  • Yuji Matsuo, fly-half (stand-off), Shin-Nittetsu Kamaishi.
  • Andrew Miller, fly-half for Kobe Steel and Japan.
  • Takuro Miuchi, former number 8 and captain at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
  • Wataru Murata, player of Yamaha Jubilo.
  • Daisuke Ohata, world record try scorer (69 tries throughout his career).
  • Atsushi Oyagi, lock, Kobe Steel and Japan, now a TV personality ("talento").
  • Kenzo Suzuki, better known as a professional wrestler, Suzuki was capped for the national team as well.
  • Yoshihito Yoshida, world class Japanese wing, known especially on the Sevens circuit.
  • Ayumu Goromaru, former fullback and the leading points scorer for Japan.
  • Kenki Fukuoka, former wing of Japan, known for his speed and sidesteps.

Player records (career)

Most matches

1Hitoshi OnoLock2004–20169878206035363
2Hirotoki OnozawaWing2001–2013817384137352
3Yukio MotokiCentre1991–2005797363147140
4Kensuke HatakeyamaProp2008–20167857215027165
5Fumiaki TanakaScrum-half2008–20197560154627263
6Michael LeitchFlanker2008–726664723267
7Luke ThompsonLock2007–20197159124425263
8Takashi KikutaniNumber 82005–20146857114126161
Yu TamuraFly-half2012–6852164126164
10Shota HorieHooker2009–2019665974321267

Last updated: Scotland vs Japan, 20 November 2021. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[37]

Most tries

1Daisuke OhataWing1996–20065855334569
2Hirotoki OnozawaWing2001–20138173827555
3Takashi KikutaniNumber 82005–201468571116032
4Terunori MasuhoWing1991–20014746114729
5Yoshikazu FujitaWing2012–201730201013026
6Kenki FukuokaWing2013–20193831712525
7Ryu Koliniasi HolaniNumber 82008–20164438611022
Kotaro MatsushimaFullback2014–4439511022
9Alisi TupuaileiCentre2009–20112013710521
10Toru KuriharaWing2000–20032823534720
Michael LeitchFlanker2008–7266610020

Last updated: Scotland vs Japan, 20 November 2021. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[38]

Most points

1Ayumu GoromaruFullback2005–20155670818162980
2Keiji HiroseFly-half1994–200540422577792
3Toru KuriharaWing2000–2003283472071350
4Daisuke OhataWing1996–20065834569000
5Yu TamuraFly-half2012–68294561490
6James ArlidgeFly-half2007–201132286878282
7Hirotoki OnozawaWing2001–20138127555000
8Shaun WebbFly-half2008–201135198184560
9Ryan NicholasCentre2008–201238193953140
10Takashi KikutaniNumber 82005–20146816032000

Last updated: Scotland vs Japan, 20 November 2021. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[39]

Most matches as captain

1Takuro MiuchiNumber 82002–2008451727138.88306
2Michael LeitchFlanker2014–352212168.185511
3Takashi KikutaniNumber 82008–2013342112163.2311022
4Toshiaki HiroseWing2012–201318135072.22459
5Masahiro KundaHooker1993–19981459035.7100
6Yukio MotokiCentre1996–19971248033.3351
7Seiji HiraoCentre1989–19911156045.4500
8Toshiyuki HayashiLock1986–19871018115.0000
Andrew McCormickCentre1998–19991046040.0051
Akira YokoiCentre1970–19741036135.0000

Last updated: Scotland vs Japan, 20 November 2021. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[40]

Player records (match)

Most points in a match

1Toru KuriharaWing6061500 Chinese TaipeiChinese Taipei Tainan21 July 2002
2Daisuke OhataWing408000 Chinese TaipeiJapan Tokyo21 July 2002
3Ayumu GoromaruFullback3711600 Sri LankaJapan Nagoya10/05/2014
4Ayumu GoromaruFullback3611410 PhilippinesJapan Fukuoka20 April 2013
5Toru KuriharaWing3521110 South KoreaJapan Tokyo16 June 2002
6Keiji HiroseFly-half341190 TongaJapan Tokyo08/05/1999
7Ayumu GoromaruFullback3221100 KazakhstanKazakhstan Almaty28 April 2012
8Keiji HiroseFly-half3101130 Hong KongJapan Tokyo08/05/2005
94 players on 30 points

Last updated: Scotland vs Japan, 20 November 2021. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[41]

Most tries in a match

1Daisuke OhataWing408000 Chinese TaipeiJapan Tokyo07/07/2002
2Toru KuriharaWing6061500 Chinese TaipeiChinese Taipei Tainan21 July 2002
Daisuke OhataWing306000 Hong KongJapan Tokyo08/05/2005
Yoshikazu FujitaWing306000 United Arab EmiratesJapan Fukuoka05/05/2012
5Terunori MasuhoWing255000 Chinese TaipeiSingapore Singapore27 October 1998
Kosuke EndoWing255000 South KoreaSouth Korea Daegu01/05/2010
Alisi TupuaileiCentre255000 Sri LankaSri Lanka Colombo21 May 2011
Kentaro KodamaWing255000 South KoreaJapan Kanagawa30 April 2016
910 players on 4 tries

Last updated: Scotland vs Japan, 20 November 2021. Statistics include officially capped matches only.[42]

Tournament history

Rugby World Cup

Japan has participated in the Rugby World Cup since the tournament's inception in 1987, and has made appearances in all tournaments thus far. Despite this, they experienced little success until the 2015 tournament, with just one victory over Zimbabwe in 1991, and two draws with Canada in 2007 and 2011. In 2015 they defeated South Africa with a score of 34–32, their first win since 1991 against Zimbabwe, which they followed up with victories over Samoa and the United States in the same pool stage, but despite their 3–1 record failed to reach the knockout round.

They were the home team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which was held in Japan.

In the 2019 World Cup, Japan were drawn in Group A alongside Ireland, Russia, Samoa, and Scotland. After a nervy opening night win against Russia (30–10),[43] Japan went on to beat Ireland 19–12,[44] a huge upset and a result few predicted. Their third group game against Samoa ended in another win, this time 38–19, while also securing a highly important bonus point (for scoring four or more tries).[45]

In the highly anticipated final group game against Scotland, both teams needed to win to progress to the knockout stages at the expense of the other. The match went ahead despite pre-game worries that it would have to be cancelled due to the ongoing issues caused by Typhoon Hagibis. The pre-tournament rules stated that if the typhoon was sufficient enough to intervene, the game would be cancelled, and the result declared a draw. This controversial rule[46] would have allowed Japan to progress by default due to previous results.

After final safety checks, the game was allowed to commence. Japan edged out Scotland 28–21 to register their second shock win of the tournament. They also became the first Asian nation to top their group at a Rugby World Cup, and the first Asian team to progress to the knockout stages.[47]

Japan played South Africa in the quarter finals in Tokyo on Sunday 20 October 2019, kick off 19:15 JST. They kept pace with South Africa in the first half, but two tries and three penalties in the second half for South Africa put the game out of reach and Japan lost 26–3.[48]

World Cup recordWorld Cup Qualification record
Australia New Zealand 1987Pool Stage300348123Automatically qualified
United Kingdom Republic of Ireland France 1991Pool Stage3102778732016563
South Africa 1995Pool Stage300355252440021052
Wales 1999Pool Stage300336140330022125
Australia 2003Pool Stage400479163440042047
France 2007Pool Stage401364210660037960
New Zealand 2011Pool Stage401369184440032630
England 2015Pool Stage430198100880065841
Japan 2019Quarter-finals540111888Qualified as hosts
France 2023To be determinedAutomatically qualified

Pacific Nations Cup

Pacific Nations Cup Match at Chichibunomiya Stadium on 17 June 2012, in which Samoa defeated Japan 27–26
  • 2006: 5th
  • 2007: 6th
  • 2008: 5th
  • 2009: 4th
  • 2010: 3rd
  • 2011: 1st
  • 2012: 4th
  • 2013: 4th
  • 2014: 1st
  • 2015: 4th
  • 2019: 1st

Asia Rugby Championship

Asia Rugby Championship record
Japan 1969Champions440019135
Thailand 1970Champions330011139
Hong Kong 1972Champions44001674
Sri Lanka 1974Champions440014037
Japan 1976Champions440019421
Malaysia 1978Champions33009730
Taiwan 1980Champions440026521
Singapore 1982Runner-up430111230
Japan 1984Champions440020223
Thailand 1986Runner-up420223254
Hong Kong 1988Runner-up430122343
Sri Lanka 1990Runner-up430120034
Hong Kong 1992Champions330022512
Malaysia 1994Champions330022617
Taiwan 1996Champions220024222
Singapore 1998Champions330022125
Japan 2000Champions330016441
Thailand 2002Runner-up32019354
Hong Kong 2004Champions22006912
Hong Kong 2006–07Champions22001063
Hong Kong Japan Kazakhstan Qatar South Korea United Arab Emirates 2008Champions440031058
Hong Kong Japan Kazakhstan Singapore South Korea 2009Champions440027140
Bahrain Hong Kong Japan Kazakhstan South Korea United Arab Emirates 2010Champions440032630
Hong Kong Japan Kazakhstan Sri Lanka United Arab Emirates 2011Champions440030735
Hong Kong Japan Kazakhstan South Korea United Arab Emirates 2012Champions440031211
Hong Kong Japan Philippines South Korea United Arab Emirates 2013Champions44003168
Hong Kong Japan Philippines South Korea Sri Lanka 2014Champions440034233
Hong Kong Japan South Korea 2015Champions431016340
Hong Kong Japan South Korea 2016Champions440024223
Hong Kong Japan South Korea 2017Champions440017256
Total25 titles107100166286891

See also

  • Rugby union in Japan
  • List of Japan national rugby union test matches
  • Japan women's national rugby union team


  1. ^ "Brave Blossoms break into top ten". irb.com. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Japan pull off greatest shock in World Cup history". ESPN. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Rugby World Cup: Japan's Shocking Upset Commands Attention". The New York Times. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Japan beat South Africa". The Guardian. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Joyous fans roar Japan to thrilling win and place in the knockouts". Rugby World Cup. 13 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  6. ^ "Springboks 'push the right buttons' to end Japan's party". Rugby World Cup. 20 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  7. ^ Galbraith, Mike (15 March 2014). "1866 and all that: the untold early history of rugby in Japan". The Japan Times.
  8. ^ Young, Keith (2015). "Japan". Complete Rugby Union Compendium. Edinburgh: Arena Sport. ISBN 978-1-909715-34-9.
  9. ^ "Elissalde sacked as Japan coach".
  10. ^ "Eddie Jones appointed coach of Japan". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 26 December 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  11. ^ JRFU (2 May 2012). "Fujita in line for historic debut". Archived from the original on 10 July 2012.
  12. ^ "Eddie Jones hospitalised after Japan rugby coach suffers suspected stroke – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  13. ^ "Eddie Jones released from intensive care after stroke but will miss Japan's Test with All Blacks". Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  14. ^ a b "Scott Wisemantel is interim coach for Japan". Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2015: South Africa 32–34 Japan". 19 September 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Rugby World Cup 2015: Japan beat USA in final pool game". 11 October 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  17. ^ McCurry, Justin; Doward, Jamie (28 September 2019). "High fives and Guinness as Japan celebrates latest rugby shock". The Observer.
  18. ^ Cary, Tom; Stokes, Ali (28 September 2019). "Sensation of Shizuoka: Japan shock Ireland with another historic Rugby World Cup upset". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  19. ^ Kitson, Robert (13 October 2019). "Japan hang on to reach Rugby World Cup last eight and send Scotland out". The Guardian.
  20. ^ "ラグビー日本代表 初代ジャージー発見、京都で展示へ - スポニチ Sponichi Annex スポーツ". スポニチ Sponichi Annex (in Japanese).
  21. ^ "ADEAC(アデアック):デジタルアーカイブシステム". trc-adeac.trc.co.jp.
  22. ^ "ラグビー日本代表に桜が咲いた日 かつてエンブレムは「つぼみ」だった - スポニチ Sponichi Annex スポーツ". スポニチ Sponichi Annex (in Japanese).
  23. ^ "ラグビー日本代表 ユニフォームの歴史 1930年代〜2019年".
  24. ^ "Rees Stephens, Neath, Wales, Barbarians & British Lions". www.rugbyrelics.com.
  25. ^ "https://twitter.com/g_leitch/status/1472848749995397120". Twitter. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)
  26. ^ France and Japan draw 23–23 in Paris
  27. ^ "RUGBY IN JAPAN NEWSLETTER Volume 9, No.30". rugby-international.blogspot.ca. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  28. ^ "Italy lose 26–23 to Japan in Tokyo" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 21 June 2014.
  29. ^ a b "Men's World Rankings". World Rugby. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  30. ^ "Rugby Union – ESPN Scrum – Statsguru – Test matches – Team records". ESPN scrum.
  31. ^ a b "Hammett, Nakatake assigned interim coaching duties for Brave Blossoms". The Japan Times. 10 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  32. ^ "Jamie Joseph to take Japan to next Rugby World Cup, ruling out All Blacks role". SCMP. 18 November 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  33. ^ "リポビタンDツアー2021 日本代表欧州遠征メンバーのお知らせ". Japan Rugby Union (in Japanese). 25 October 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  34. ^ "男子日本代表 追加招集および離脱選手のお知らせ". Japan Rugby Union (in Japanese). 28 October 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  35. ^ "男子日本代表 離脱選手のお知らせ". Japan Rugby Union (in Japanese). 29 October 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  36. ^ "男子日本代表 追加招集選手のお知らせ". Japan Rugby Union (in Japanese). 2 November 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  37. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most matches". ESPN scrum.
  38. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual tries". ESPN scrum.
  39. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual points". ESPN scrum.
  40. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most matches as a captain". ESPN scrum.
  41. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual points in a match". ESPN scrum.
  42. ^ "Rugby Union – Japan – Most individual tries in a match". ESPN scrum.
  43. ^ "Matsushima stars as Japan beat Russia - relive hosts' World Cup win". BBC Sport. 19 September 2019. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  44. ^ "Shock Japan win 'will ignite World Cup'". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  45. ^ "Japan beat Samoa to close in on quarters". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  46. ^ Cleary, Mick (13 October 2019). "Scotland didn't cover themselves in glory with legal threats amid death and destruction in Japan". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  47. ^ English, Tom (13 October 2019). "Japan 28-21 Scotland: Gregor Townsend's side out of Rugby World Cup". BBC Sport.
  48. ^ Grey, Becky (20 October 2019). "South Africa 26-3 Japan: Springboks through to Rugby World Cup semi-finals". BBC Sport.

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