Mgl japan 2023


Michael Leitch, since his international debut for the Brave Blossoms in 2008, has enjoyed considerable rugby success. Throughout his career his core motivating factor has been to be part of seeing Japan win the respect of world rugby.

Michael Leitch was born on October 7, 1988, in Christchurch, New Zealand. While growing up in New Zealand, he was immersed in rugby from a young age. His talent on the field became evident during his school years, and he moved to Japan as a teenager to attend Sapporo Yamanote High School. Leitch embraced the Japanese culture and language, eventually adopting Japan as his home.

Club Career: Toshiba Brave Lupus

Leitch's professional rugby career began with Toshiba Brave Lupus, one of the premier teams in Japan's Top League. Joining the club in 2009, he quickly established himself as a dominant force in the back row. Known for his powerful runs, defensive prowess, and leadership skills, Leitch became a cornerstone of the Brave Lupus lineup. His contributions helped the team consistently perform at a high level in the domestic league and in 2024 Michael, as captain of Toshiba, led the team in winning the League One Championship.

Super Rugby Career: Chiefs and Sunwolves

Leitch's first foray into Super Rugby came when he joined the Waikato Chiefs in 2015. Super Rugby is one of the most competitive rugby leagues in the world, and playing for the Chiefs was a significant step in Leitch's career. His versatility and skill as a back-row forward quickly earned him a spot in the team. Leitch played for the Chiefs during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, making a notable impact with his strong ball-carrying ability, solid defense, and leadership on and off the field.

During his time with the Chiefs, Leitch played alongside and against some of the best players in the world, further developing his game and gaining valuable experience. His performances in Super Rugby were instrumental in solidifying his reputation as a world-class player and leader.

In 2018, Leitch took on another challenge by joining the Sunwolves, Japan's franchise in the Super Rugby competition. The Sunwolves were established to promote rugby in Japan and provide local players with the opportunity to compete at a higher level. Leitch's presence in the team brought experience and leadership, crucial for a new franchise navigating the tough waters of Super Rugby.

Leitch's tenure with the Sunwolves lasted from 2018 to 2019. During this period, he often played as captain, guiding the team through two challenging seasons. Despite the Sunwolves' struggles in terms of results, Leitch's performances were consistently strong.

Leitch's commitment to the Sunwolves highlighted his dedication to the growth of rugby in Japan and his willingness to take on new challenges to push both his limits, and those of his teammates.

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International Career and Rugby World Cups

Michael Leitch's impact on Japanese rugby has most notably been seen in his international career, particularly during the Rugby World Cup tournaments.

2011 Rugby World Cup

Leitch made his Rugby World Cup debut in 2011 in New Zealand. Although Japan did not advance beyond the pool stages, Leitch's performances were a silver lining. He played in all four of Japan's matches, demonstrating his skill and tenacity, and scored a memorable try against Tonga. His leadership qualities set the stage for future successes.

2015 Rugby World Cup

The 2015 Rugby World Cup in England marked a turning point for Japanese rugby. Under Leitch's leadership, Japan achieved one of the greatest upsets in rugby history by defeating South Africa 34-32 in a thrilling encounter, famously known as the ‘Brighton Miracle’. Leitch's decision to go for a match-winning try rather than a draw epitomized his fearless leadership. Japan won three out of their four pool matches, narrowly missing out on a quarterfinal spot. Leitch's performances earned him international acclaim and established him as a rugby superstar.

2019 Rugby World Cup

Hosting the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 2019, Japan was under immense pressure to perform. As captain, Leitch led the team with distinction. Japan won all their pool matches, including notable victories against Ireland and Scotland, advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in history. Although they were defeated by South Africa in the quarterfinals, Japan's performances throughout the tournament were celebrated, and Leitch was hailed as a national hero. His leadership and inspirational play were central to Japan's historic run.

2023 Rugby World Cup

In the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, Leitch continued to be a pivotal figure for Japan. Despite being in a challenging pool, he provided experience and resilience to a relatively young squad. Japan's performance was competitive, and Leitch's contributions were significant in maintaining the team's status as a formidable participant on the world stage. His presence in the squad underscored his enduring influence on Japanese rugby.

Achievements and Accolades

Leadership: Leitch is widely respected for his leadership, both as former captain of the Japanese national team and within his club, Toshiba Brave Lupus. His decision-making and inspirational play have been crucial in Japan's rise in international rugby.

Historic Wins: Leitch has been instrumental in Japan's historic victories, particularly the 2015 win against South Africa and the 2019 successes against Ireland and Scotland. He also achieved domestic success, winning the League One championship as captain of Toshiba Brave Lupus.

Cultural Ambassador: Beyond his on-field achievements, Leitch has acted as a bridge between Japanese and international rugby cultures, promoting the sport and fostering a deeper connection with fans and players alike.

Michael Leitch's legacy in rugby extends beyond his impressive statistics and victories. He is celebrated as a player who has embodied the spirit of rugby with his dedication, sportsmanship, and leadership. His contributions have not only elevated Japanese rugby to new heights but have also inspired a generation of players and fans. As a true ambassador of the sport, his name will forever be associated with the transformation of Japanese rugby into an international powerhouse.