Name: Michael Leitch
Height: 189 cm
Weight: 105 kg
Occupation: Captain of Japan’s national rugby team, loose forward for Toshiba Brave Lupus
1. What first brought you to Japan? First, the opportunity. Second, I became interested in Japanese rugby because I had Japanese billets (short-term homestays) in New Zealand.
2. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? “Kami ni chikauna onore ni chikae” (“Don’t rely on God to get you somewhere, rely on your own hard work”).
3. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? Accept the captaincy for the Japanese national team.
4. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? Can you hug (New Zealand rugby player) Tanerau Latimer for a photo shoot?
5. What first inspired you to play rugby? The All Blacks.
6. What is your favorite rugby game of all time? Why is it memorable? Japan vs. South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. It was the perfect game.
7. Who is the best player you have ever played against? What was so difficult about playing against them? (Australian loose forward) George Smith. He made rugby look easy.
8. Who is your favorite rugby player of all time? Jonah Lomu.
9. You play as a loose forward for the Toshiba Brave Lupus and Japanese national teams. Is there another position you would love to play if you had the right physical attributes? I would like to play No. 15. I like to run with ball and also kick it.
10. Tell us your secret to making the perfect tackle? If you want to make the tackle, you will.
11. You’ve suffered a couple of broken bones playing rugby in recent years and managed to make successful comebacks both times. What advice can you offer others who have suffered a serious injury? Use the time on the sidelines wisely: help the team prepare, maybe do some extra study, etc.
12. You were captain of the national team at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England. What is your most memorable moment from the tournament? Looking at the boys around me (on the rugby field) giving it 100 percent against South Africa.
13. Head coach Eddie Jones implemented a system for the national team he called the “Japan Way.” What does the “Japan Way” mean to you? It means hard work, tactical flexibility and commitment.
14. What does the national team need to do to qualify for the quarterfinals at the Rugby World Cup in 2019? Make the venues enjoyable — having good sounds would help.
15. How much assistance can the Brave Blossoms receive from home support at the next world cup? As long as the players don’t take the support in a negative way, it should help the team.
16. Rugby aside, you own a New Zealand-style cafe with your wife called Plus 64 in Fuchu, western Tokyo. What’s the meaning behind the name? Sixty-four is the international calling code to New Zealand. It’s a New Zealand-themed cafe.
17. Any memorable coffee moments you’d like to share? My first flat white looked like a tadpole.
18. What’s your secret to making a perfect flat white? The milk.
19. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Don’t make silly cop out excuses and if you want something, make a plan, work hard and go get it. Cut out all the crap that will disrupt your preparations.
20. Let’s conclude with a rugby question. Your team is down 32-29 with 90 seconds to go and the opposition (at full-strength) concedes a penalty meters away from the try line in front of the posts: Would you kick for goal or kick for touch for an attacking lineout? It would all be dependent on how the team’s set piece is functioning and whether we had a special move/sequence to score from a lineout. Where we stand in the competition is also something that needs to be considered as well.
For more information on the Toshiba Brave Lupus rugby team, including scheduling, visit www.toshiba.co.jp/sports/rugby/index.htm (in Japanese).