Japan shuffle the deck for Las Vegas Sevens

Japan have rung in the changes bringing in four players for the Las Vegas Sevens, the fifth leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, from March 1-3.

Japan’s 15s and Panasonic Wild Knights winger Yoshikazu Fujita will return to the World Sevens Series for the first time in three years as the Asian powerhouses look to re-boot a poor season so far, languishing in 15th position at the bottom of the standings.

Fujita, who was the youngest ever player to represent Japan – in 2012 he was 18 years and 210 days as he took the field against the United Arab Emirates in an Asian rugby 15-a-side game and scored six tries on his debut – will hopefully inject pace to the Japan sevens team as they come up against England, South Africa and Chile in pool competition in Las Vegas.

Apart from Fujita, another player who has had previous World Series experience is forward Koyama Takuaki who participated in Singapore Sevens last season. It will be his first World Series outing this season.

Japan sevens coach Kensuke Iwabuchi has also called up back Kazuhiro Goya who was part of the Japanese team who finished fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, losing the bronze medal match to South Africa. Goya last played for the national sevens team in the qualifying tournament at last year’s Hong Kong Sevens which Japan won earning a place as a core team in this season’s World Series.

The fourth player to be called up is newbie Ishida Yoshihira. The 18-year-old is still a student and played for Japan at last year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires contributing hugely in his country’s progress to the bronze medal.

Although Japan don’t face the pressures of having to take part in the 2020 Olympic qualifying race – as hosts they gain automatic entry – coach Iwabuchi will be looking for a vast improvement in his team’s performance with an eye on Tokyo next year.

Caption: Yoshikazu Fujita. Credit: Twitter

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