Jones opts for versatility in naming RWC 2015 squad

Japan head to England 2015 with a 31-man squad split 17/14 between forwards and backs.

Ten players with previous Rugby World Cup experience have been named in Japan’s RWC 2015 squad by head coach Eddie Jones.

Hitoshi Ono – the most capped player in the squad with 93 test appearances and fellow second-row Luke Thompson, aged 37 and 34 respectively, are set to compete in their third tournament.

Kensuke Hatakeyama, Atsushi Hiwasa, Ryu Koliniasi Holani, Shota Horie, captain Michael Leitch, Fumiaki Tanaka and Hiroki Yuhara also appeared at RWC 2011, when Japan disappointingly failed to win a single match, while RWC 2007 veteran Kosei Ono’s ability to cover both half-back positions sees him return for a second tournament. The inclusion of another utility back, 33-year-old Toshiaki Hirose, has enabled Jones to select just two scrum-halves.

Versatility was also the order of the day in the forwards with lineout specialist Justin Ives, who can play second-row and back-row, edging Hayden Hopgood. Ives is currently injured but both he and winger Akihito Yamada are expected to be fit in time for Japan’s opening Pool B match against South Africa in Brighton on 19 September.

Amanaki Lelei Mafi and Shinya Makabe are both named despite very limited playing time following serious injuries.

Japan fly out to England on Tuesday in preparation for their final warm-up game against Georgia in Gloucester on Saturday.

Japan RWC 2015 squad:

Forwards: Keita Inagaki, Masataka Mikami, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Hiroshi Yamashita, Shota Horie, Takeshi Kizu, Hiroki Yuhara, Luke Thompson, Shinya Makabe, Shoji Ito, Hitoshi Ono, Michael Leitch (capt.), Ryu Koliniasi Holani, Michael Broadhurst, Hendrik Tui, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Justin Ives.

Backs: Fumiaki Tanaka, Atsushi Hiwasa, Harumichi Tatekawa, Yu Tamura, Kosei Ono, Craig Wing, Male Sa'u, Kenki Fukuoka, Akihito Yamada, Karne Hesketh, Yoshikazu Fujita, Ayumu Goromaru, Kotaro Matsushima, Toshiaki Hirose.

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