Jones Ushers in Next Generation as Brave Blossoms Squad Announced

Japan National Team Head Coach Eddie Jones has today announced his first Brave Blossoms squad of the year. Consisting of 21 forwards and 14 backs, the 35-member squad has a distinctly youthful feel with an average of just nine test caps per player spread across the group.

While veterans such as Michael Leitch (84 caps), Atsushi Sakate (41 caps) and Rikiya Matsuda (37 caps) add their significant experience to the group, the squad includes 12 uncapped players and 14 members with 10 test caps or less. With Japan beginning its building phase towards the next World Cup, 2024 will be a year in which the next generation get their chance to prove themselves against some of the biggest test nations in the world.

As a further indication of Jones’ ambition to promote youth, two players in the squad, prop Tsubasa Moriyama from Teikyo University and hooker Kenji Sato from Waseda University have been drawn from their respective university teams. They are also joined by an additional three university players who will be attached to the squad as training members. Lock Takuma Motohashi from Teikyo University, centre Yuta Akihama from Meiji University and outside-back Yoshitaka Yazaki from Waseda University will all have the chance to train alongside the national team, having been identified as players of high potential.

The Brave Blossoms squad announcement comes ahead of a massive year of internationals. Japan will host England, Italy, Georgia and New Zealand at home this year, as well as playing England at Twickenham and France in Paris on their Autumn tour. The Japan XV will also welcome the Māori All Blacks back to Japan for the first time since 2014, with the two sides set to face each other in two, non-test match fixtures. .

Commenting on the squad selections, Brave Blossoms Head Coach Eddie Jones said:
“Post 2023 there was always going to be a need to rebuild the team, so we’ve started that process today. From here on in, we’re building towards the World Cup in 2027 and this group of players have the first opportunity to do Japan proud. As I’ve spoken about before, we have the need to play in a different style, a Japanese style of play we call Choushoku or super-fast rugby. We’ll be looking to implement that from day one. It will be challenging, but we want to see the first signs of it against England.

“In 2023 Japan had a very old squad, one of the oldest at the World Cup, so I felt the need to bring young players through. Players that have impressed in our training camps and I am confident that a number of these players will come through and be really good players for Japan. I am looking for players that are hungry to improve. To get where we want to go, we need players who are absolutely hungry every minute of the day to get better. If we can find 33 players that are like that, we have a great chance of achieving our dream.”

The squad will assemble at their training base in Miyazaki, on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu from June 6, until the end of the domestic summer match series. From Miyazaki, matchday squads will travel to and from the four host cities for their test matches and two non-capped matches.

In addition to the squad announcement, the Brave Blossoms’ coaching team has also been finalised. Among a number of Japanese and international appointees, Eddie Jones reunites with Neal Hatley who joins the team as Coaching Coordinator. Hatley has worked with Jones in various coaching roles throughout the years, the most recent being as Forwards Coach with the Wallabies.

Former test forwards Owen Franks and Victor Matfield have also been brought into the Brave Blossoms coaching set up. Capped 108 times for the All Black, Franks joins as Assistant Coach, while Matfield, the most capped Springbok of all time, with 127 caps will support the team as a Technical Advisor.

They are joined by David Kidwell and Dan Bowden as Assistant Coaches. Before moving into coaching, Kidwell had a distinguished career playing rugby league in Australia and England. He was also capped 25 times for New Zealand in league. Bowden, a talented fly-half has played professional rugby around the world including in Italy, England and Japan. He also played 36 Super Rugby matches during stints at the Highlanders, Crusaders and Blues in his native New Zealand.

Japan Rugby 2024 Match Schedule
* Tickets:

Saturday 22 June
Lipovitan D Challenge Cup 2024 Japan vs England
National Stadium, Tokyo 

Saturday 29 June
Japan XV vs Māori All Blacks*
Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo

Saturday 6 July
Japan XV vs Māori All Blacks*
Toyota Stadium, Toyota City

Saturday 13 July
Japan vs Georgia
Yurtek Stadium, Sendai

Sunday 21 July
Japan vs Italy
Sapporo Dome, Sapporo

Saturday 26 October
Lipovitan D Challenge Cup 2024 Japan vs All Blacks
Nissan Stadium, Yokohama

Saturday, 9 November
France vs Japan
Stade de France, Paris

Sunday, 24 November
England vs Japan
Twickenham Stadium, London

*Non-test Matches


Japan National Team Staff

Position Name Affiliation
Team Director Yoji NAGATOMO Japan Rugby Football Union
Head Coach Eddie JONES Japan Rugby Football Union
Coaching Coordinator Neal HATLEY Japan Rugby Football Union
Assistant Team DirectorToshiaki HIROSE Japan Rugby Football Union
Assistant Coach David KIDWELL Japan Rugby Football Union
Assistant Coach Dan BOWDEN Japan Rugby Football Union
Assistant Coach Owen FRANKS Japan Rugby Football Union
Medical Director Yuji TAKAZAWA Juntendo Univ.
High Performance Coordinator John PRYOR Japan Rugby Football Union
S&C Coordinator Chihiro OTA Performance Goal System
Technical Advisor Victor MATFIELD Japan Rugby Football Union
Strength & Conditioning Coach Hiroaki NITTA YOKOHAMA CANON EAGLES
Strength & Conditioning Coach Shunsuke IWATA Performance Goal System
Head Analyst Jun SUDO Japan Rugby Football Union
Assistant Analyst Kenichi MURAKAMI Japan Rugby Football Union
Team Doctor Masayasu TAKAHASHI Konan Medical Center
Head Athletic Trainer Shuhei KUKUCHI JISS
Assistant Athletic Trainer Akio HAGIHARA Nazoo
Assistant Athletic Trainer Shinichi KUSHIDA Japan Rugby Football Union
Massage Therapist Tetsu ITO Freelance
Mental Coach Kaori ARAKI ㈱CORAZON
Interpreter Shino KUSUNOSE Japan Rugby Football Union
Team Manager Keisuke HATANO Japan Rugby Football Union
Assistant Manager Josh WESTBROOK Japan Rugby Football Union
Logistics Manager Akira NAKAMURA Japan Rugby Football Union
Media Manager Hayato OKADA Japan Rugby Football Union