Rugby World Cup
Kirwan names Japan World Cup squad
ESPNscrum Staff
August 22, 2011
Japan's Itaru Taniguchi is tackled by a wall of US Eagles defenders, Japan v US Eagles, Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground, Tokyo, Japan, August 21, 2011
Japan's Taniguchi has been named in the squad for the World Cup © Getty Images

Takeshi Kikutani has been named as Japan's captain for the forthcoming World Cup following the announcement of their 30-man squad for the tournament.

The squad - which is a 16-14 split between forwards and backs - was unveiled by coach John Kirwan on Monday. And there is just one player - Sione Vatuvei - included who failed to feature during their victorious Asian Five Nations and Pacific Nations Cup campaigns.

Vatuvei's inclusion comes at the expense of fellow back-row Tadasuke Nishihara who is the only player from the recent squad which faced Italy and the US Eagles not to make the squad. Justifying his decision, the Brave Blossoms' coach Kirwan said: "Sione gives us more options in the line-out and played very well last night [against the United States].

"It's hard for Nishihara as he is a good player for the future. I hope he takes this setback and uses it as motivation to make the squad for 2015."

Despite the absence of Nishihara, Kirwan is delighted with the makeup of his squad. "I am very happy with the side. We have spent the last four years outing the team together and everyone understands how we want to play. We have a good mixture of youth and experience."

Japan start their World Cup campaign against France in North Harbour on September 10 and Kirwan has targetted wins against Canada and Tonga. "We are a much more complete team than four years ago," Kirwan said. "It's very important that we go to the World Cup with a settled side.

"This is a well established team but they will need to prepare as it will be pretty intense over there. It's important that we achieve the goals we set four years ago and that means being competitive in the first two games and winning the last two."

Japan are currently ranked 13th in the world - one place above fellow Pool A rivals Canada, who are 14th, and Tonga 15th.

Japan squad:

Forwards: Hisateru Hirashima (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers) Naoki Kawamata (Panasonic Wild Knights), Yusuke Aoki (Suntory Sungoliath), Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild Knights), Hiroki Yuhara (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Kensuke Hatakeyama (Suntory Sungoliath), Nozomu Fujita (Honda Heat), Hitoshi Ono (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Toshizumi Kitagawa (Toyota Verblitz), Luke Thompson (Kintetsu Liners), Justin Ives (Panasonic Wild Knights), Takashi Kikutani (Toyota Verblitz), Michael Leitch (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Sione Vatuvei (Panasonic Wild Knights), Ryukoliniasi Holani (Panasonic Wild Knights), Itaru Taniguchi (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers)

Backs: Fumiaki Tanaka (Panasonic Wild Knights), Tomoki Yoshida (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Atsushi Hiwasa (Suntory Sungoliath), James Arlidge (Nottingham), Murray Williams (Toyota Industries Shuttles), Yuta Imamura (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers), Ryan Nicholas (Suntory Sungoliath), Koji Taira (Suntory Sungoliath), Alisi Tupuailai (Canon Eagles), Hirotoki Onozawa (Suntory Sungoliath), Kosuke Endo (Toyota Verblitz), Takehisa Usuzuki (Toshiba Brave Lupus), Shaun Webb (Coca-Cola West Red), Taihei Ueda (Honda Heat)

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