Japan's Kotaro Matsushima is tackled by England's Henry Slade at Twickenham in November
Tokyo (AFP) - Japan head coach Jamie Joseph on Wednesday named a 36-man squad for upcoming Test matches as he looks to “reforge a strong connection” months before the Rugby World Cup.
Japan are aiming for at least the quarter-finals in France, having stunned Ireland and Scotland on their way to the last eight on home soil four years ago.
Joseph picked nine uncapped players alongside World Cup veterans such as winger Kotaro Matsushima and flankers Michael Leitch and Kazuki Himeno.
He also named a wider training squad of 10 players that includes 2019 World Cup captain Pieter Labuschagne.
Joseph will put his players through their paces at two training camps before games against a New Zealand XV and home Test matches against Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
They will then face Italy away before kicking off their World Cup campaign against Chile in Toulouse on September 10.
The New Zealand-born Joseph said he would try “to bring the group up to Test-match standard”.
He also said they would be “working to reforge a strong connection within the team ahead of what will be an incredibly exciting and challenging year”.
“We have a lot of work to do as we prepare for our upcoming matches in Japan and then on to Italy, before we head to France for the World Cup,” Joseph said in a statement.
Japan will also play England, Samoa and Argentina in Pool D at the World Cup.