Michael Leitch, since his international debut for the Brave Blossoms in 2008, has enjoyed considerable rugby success. Throughout Michael`s career his core motivating factor has been to be part of seeing Japan win the respect of world rugby.
Michael has played a large part in improving the competitiveness of the Japanese rugby team, seeing one of their greatest victories ever over the Springboks in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Michael was raised in Christchurch, and attended St Bede’s College. In 2004, aged fifteen, he took advantage of the school’s exchange program to enroll at Sapporo Yamanote High School where he became fluent in both Japanese and rugby.
While still a student at Tokai University Michael debuted for the Japanese national team in 2008 at the tender age of 20. He signed to Toshiba Brave Lupus in 2011 and later that same year put in a string of standout performances at the 2011 World Cup.
In his debut Top League season he was named in the League’s ‘Team of the Year’. It was at this stage that, after being noticed at the 2011 RWC, Leitch was included in the wider training squad of the champion 2013 Chiefs franchise in Hamilton, New Zealand. Injury prevented him from playing for the Chiefs that year, but when the chance came again in 2015 he leapt at it. His first season in Chiefs colors saw him again achieve high honors, being crowned Rookie of the Season.
Michael’s two years excelling in the white hot cauldron of Super Rugby, competing alongside and against the world’s best, has seen his abilities and leadership flourish. It was indeed his increasingly impressive leadership and decision-making that helped bring about Japan’s memorable victory over the mighty Springboks at the World Cup when he elected to chase the win late in the game rather than settle for a draw.
After that historic victory Michael has continued to perform consistently at rugby’s highest level for the Chiefs and the Sunwolves in Super Rugby, Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan`s Top League, and as captain of the Japan Brave Blossoms through until the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
It was during this tournament where the Japan team exhilarated the nation with their performances and victories against Ireland, Russia, Samoa and Scotland in pool play. The Brave Blossoms became the first ever Asian side to qualify for the quarter-finals, losing to eventual champions South Africa.
Outside of rugby Michael has a passion for the outdoors, particularly hunting, fishing, and trekking. He also endeavors to assist others in the community achieve through his charity work, creating opportunities for young people in sport and education. He still remains close to Yamanote High School where his rugby career first began and has set up a trust for the international students of the school.