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.


    はじめてボールをける Michael


    Born Burwood, Christchurch New Zealand

    Young Michael


    Began playing rugby at age five at Burnside RFC

    St Bedes


    Attended St Bedes College in Christchurch

    Michael Yamanote


    Attended Yamanote High School

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    Selected for Japan Secondary Schools

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    Enrolled at Tokai University

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    In 2008, Michael was selected for the Japan Sevens and under-20s and went on to make his full test debut against the USA in Nagoya that November.



    Signs for Toshiba Brave Lupus and caps off the year at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, winning praise for his man-of-the-match performances.



    Selected for Chiefs but injury denies debut.



    Appointed captain of Japan's national rugby team.



    Selected and debuts for Chiefs in Super Rugby and goes on to be awarded Rookie of the Year. Michael leads Japan to one of the all-time great sporting upsets against overwhelming favourites South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Selected in the RWC Best 15 as No.8 and Captain.



    In 2016 Michael continued his stellar form for Chiefs making the Super Rugby finals losing narrowly to the eventual champions the Hurricanes 25-9 in the semi. After playing 81 continuous games since 2013 for Japan, Toshiba and the Chiefs Michael made himself unavailable for the Japan national side to recover from the toll of playing a never ending global season with the intent to return in 2017.

    Leitch 2017


    In 2017 Michael continued to play for the Chiefs in the Super Rugby competition losing to the champion Crusaders side 27-13 in the semi-final. Michael also returned to the Japan Brave Blossoms in the June series against Romania and Ireland. His outstanding form and leadership in that series led him to retain the captaincy for the November series where Japan had good success drawing with France 23- 23 in Paris. Head Coach Jamie Joseph later stated Michael would be the Japan captain through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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    In 2018 Michael joined the Japan based Super Rugby side the Sunwolves, his performances and leadership having an immediate effect on the team. The Sunwolves enjoyed their best season in their short history with wins over the Reds, Stormers and the Bulls. On the international stage Michael captained the Japan team to wins over Italy and Georgia in the June series at home and in November the Brave Blossoms hosted the World XV and the All Blacks in Tokyo and played England and Russia in London.

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    In 2019 the Japan Brave Blossoms went through the Pacific Nations Cup undefeated, with wins against Fiji, Tonga and the United States. Then on rugby`s biggest stage, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the Japan side repeated their 2015 Brighton heroics, this time beating world number two ranked Ireland 19–12 at Shizuoka Stadium. The rugby skill and results of the Japan side captured the nation, with a full stadium and 60 million television viewers watching the team reach the quarter-finals for the first time after convincingly beating Scotland 28–21 at the International Stadium Yokohama, which had been battered by Typhoon Hagibis only the night before.

    Michael 2020


    Due to the Covid 19 pandemic all Top League rugby and Brave Blossom international tests for the 2020 season were cancelled. Michael used this time off from rugby to complete minor surgeries, rehabilitate and prepare for the 2021 Top League season.

    2021 06 Michael Lions


    In 2021 Michael returned to rugby playing for his Toshiba Brave Lupus side. Michael`s strong performances once again led to him being selected for the Japan Brave Blossoms. For the first time in history Michael led the Japan national team at Murryfield against the Irish and British Lions in Japan`s first game since the Rugby World Cup quarter-final. The Lions won the game 28-10. Michael also went on to play test matches against Ireland, Portugal and Scotland.

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    In 2022 Michael played an influential role in a resurgent Toshiba Brave Lupus side reaching the semi-finals in the first season of the new League One Championship. Michael`s standout performances led to him being selected for the Japan national team for his fifteenth season. Michael was consistently one of the best performers in international rugby producing repeated inspiring performances against Uruguay and France in the June tests, and then against Wallabies A, All Blacks, England and France at the end 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.

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