In 2008, at just 20 years of age, Michael Leitch made his international rugby debut for Japan against the USA. Michael quickly established himself as a regular member of the national team with consistently strong performances.
He was duly selected to play in the 2011 Rugby World Cup where he impressed the rugby world with his dynamic play, earning praise as one of Japan's best forwards and being chosen as man-of-the-match against Tonga.
Michael was the captain of the Japanese national rugby team in 2015, leading them to what many described as "the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history" when they defeated two-time champions South Africa. Michael was instrumental in beating the Springboks – he topped the tackle count with 17, scored Japan’s first try and, most importantly, made the decision to turn down a kickable penalty in favour of pursuing the match-winning try.
Highlighting the significance of this game, former England coach Clive Woodward wrote, "Japan’s win over South Africa, engineered by my old mate and sparring partner Eddie Jones is the greatest single moment in World Cup history and arguably the most important development the modern game has ever seen."