• The Associated Press

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Japan is hoping to tap its samurai spirit when it defends its title at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Japan baseball officials announced on Wednesday that the national team for the 2009 WBC will be known as “Samurai Japan”, named after the country’s former warrior nobility.

“It’s a name that we know our fans will appreciate,” said Ryozo Kato, the commissioner of Japanese professional baseball.

Japan beat Cuba to win the inaugural WBC in 2006 and there will be pressure on the team to repeat at the 2009 event which begins on March 5 at Tokyo Dome.

Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners is expected to be in Japan’s squad, along with other U.S. major league stars like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hiroki Kuroda.

“We plan to select players from the major leagues and Japan to form the best possible team,” Japan manager Tatsunori Hara said.

“There is always pressure when you are the defending champions. We know teams like the United States will be stronger and will be looking to beat us and we welcome the challenge.”

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