Michael Leitch became the face of the 2019 World Cup when rugby fell in love with Japan

Nov 20, 2022
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Michael Leitch was greeted with fan mail when he arrived at Japan's team hotel this week. Hand-written letters from school children, idolising the man with the beard who became the face of the 2019 World Cup, his image printed on crisp packets and splashed across every billboard in Tokyo.

Half Kiwi, half Fijian, he moved over to Sapporo aged 15 to learn the language and play rugby. In a country not known for its diversity, he would become an unlikely symbol of the nation's success.

'It's almost 20 years now since I moved over to Japan,' he recalls, taking a break from preparations for Saturday's Test against England.

'I had a Kiwi father and a Fijian mother. Those cultures are like chalk and cheese, so I was an outsider in New Zealand and an outsider in Fiji. When I came to Japan I was a bit of an alien but I was flexible enough to navigate my way through Japanese society, picking up body language and key words.'

Daily Mail