Tireless Michael Leitch leads evolving Japan side for another run at England

Nov 12, 2022

There is a hill in Sapporo called Sankakuyama, or Triangle mountain, but over the road at Yamanote high school they call it Michael Leitch’s playground. When Leitch was a student at Yamanote he used to run up it every day after training. It takes most kids 30 minutes – it’s so steep they cover bits of it on their hands and feet. By the end of his time there, Leitch was covering it in 15 minutes. Eddie Jones, who first met Leitch when he was coaching him at Tokai University, was talking about it this week. England’s head coach is still in awe of Leitch’s work ethic. “He’s a great player,” Jones said, “and a great man”.

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The last time Leitch lined up against England, in 2018, the “great man” made a playground of Twickenham too. He tore England apart, scored one try by beating both Danny Care and Elliot Daly, and almost got another. Leitch made as many line breaks on his own as England’s players managed between them. Japan led 15-10 at half-time, and though they ended up losing 35-15, England were so badly outplayed that the game effectively finished the Test careers of a bunch of Jones’s players in it. Four years later Leitch, 34, is back again. You can bet he will be much the same hard-charging, hard-hitting, player as ever.

The Guardian