Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has announced his 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off on Friday, September 20.

Michael Leitch captains the team for a second successive tournament.

The squad features 15 Japanese-born players, bolstered by 16 foreign-born players, with the latter representing a veritable southern hemispherean United Nations, starting with South African-born Wimpie van der Walt, Pieter (Lappies) Labuschagne, and Kotaro Matsushima, who was born in Pretoria and was part of the Sharks’ youth structures, although he is of Japanese descent on his mother’s side and did attend school in Japan for part of his education. 

Prop forward Koo Ji-won was born in South Korea, while Australia provides James Moore, and Samoa are represented by Timothy Lafaele.

Tonga is represented by no less than 5 players: Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Uwe Helu, Amanaki Mafi, and Ataata Moeakiola

New Zealand also provide 5 players: Luke Thompson, Hendrik Tui, Michael Leitch, Lomano Lemeki, and William Tupou. 

38-year-old second-row Luke Thompson is the oldest in the squad.

The 31-man squad consists of 18 forwards and 13 backs.

Japan begin their World Cup campaign against Russia in the opening game of the tournament on Friday 20thSeptember. Others in their Pool are Ireland, Samoa and Scotland.

Japan squad for Rugby World Cup

Forwards: Keita Inagaki, Yusuke Kizu, Koo Ji-won, Isileli Nakajima, Asaeli Ai Valu, Takuya Kitade, Atsushi Sakata, Shota Horie, Luke Thompson, Wimpie van der Walt, Uwe Helu, James Moore, Hendrik Tui, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Michael Leitch (c), Pieter Labuschagne, Kazuki Himeno, Amanaki Mafi

Backs: Kaito Shigeno, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yutaka Nagare, Yu Tamura, Rikiya Matsuda, Kenki Fukuoka, Ataata Moeakiola, Lomano Lemeki, William Tupou, Ryoto Nakamura, Timothy Lafaele, Kotaro Matsushima, Ryohei Yamanaka