Lomano Lava Lemeki will cap off a memorable year on Saturday when he makes his debut for the Brave Blossoms against Argentina at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
Not that it will be the first time the 27-year-old wing has represented his adopted country.
Born in Auckland, Lemeki moved to Japan in 2009 and played for the Canon Eagles and Mazda Blue Zoomers before moving tothe Honda Heat in 2013.
A key member of the Japan sevens team since 2013, Lemeki was one of the standout performers as Japan beat New Zealand en route to a fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics.
“The Olympics were great, seeing all the best athletes in the world in one place,” he told Kyodo News earlier this week after a Japan training session.
“But before I played sevens and before I went to the Olympics I always dreamed of playing international rugby and being in a World Cup. And the best step toward being in the 2019 squad is trying to make this squad and playing at the weekend.”
Those early dreams, however, saw him in a different shirt.
“Growing up I always wanted to put on the black jersey and I still support the All Blacks now. But I am living here now,” Lemeki said. “I’ve become a Japanese citizen so the next big dream after making my debut for Japan sevens was to play for the Brave Blossoms.”
Despite the big occasion, Lemeki said there would be no sleepless nights ahead of the game.
“If I have those I won’t be able to perform,” he said. “So I try not to sleep during the day and knock out early every night. Just ask my roommate.”
Lemeki is one of 13 uncapped players on the 23-man squad named Thursday by head coach Jamie Joseph. But he is confident the side will be able to put on a good performance on Satur day.
“With the limited amount of time we have had, it’s looking good,” Lemeki said. “We are not focusing too much on what they are doing, more on what we need to do and keeping it pretty simple. If we keep talking and communicating, there are a lot of quality players here. I think that are ready to make, the step up. It should be a good game at the weekend, I reckon.”