(Reuters) - Japan coach Jamie Joseph has named four uncapped players in his 33-man squad for June tests against Romania and Ireland, while veteran lock Hitoshi Ono was overlooked due to a lack of match sharpness.
“I have to give a special mention to Kin-chan,” Joseph told reporters of the 39-year-old, who has 98 caps for the Brave Blossoms but played just 12 matches in a injury-riddled season.
“He was initially in our plans but has been plagued by injury and hasn’t had enough opportunities to warrant selection. But he remains a big part of the Sunwolves and if injuries occur don’t be surprised if he gets a call-up.”
Hooker Shota Horie and flyhalf Harumichi Tatekawa have been named as co-captains for the squad that features four uncapped players: hooker Yusuke Niwai, fullback Shota Emi, centre Derek Carpenter and back William Tupou.
Players from Japan’s Super Rugby side Sunwolves make up a bulk of the squad, which also includes the return of Queensland Reds back rower Hendrik Tui and Waikato Chiefs loose forward Michael Leitch from self-imposed international exile.
Only nine of the 33 players are from teams outside the Super Rugby tournament.
The Brave Blossoms play Romania in Kumamoto on June 10 before taking on Ireland on June 17 and 24 in Shizuoka and Tokyo, respectively.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien