Michael Leitch, also known as Leitch Michael in Japanese, was born on October 7, 1988, in Burwood, Christchurch, New Zealand. He is a rugby union player who currently plays in the back row for the Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan Rugby League One. Leitch is also the captain of the Japan national team.
Leitch's upbringing involved a mix of European New Zealand and Fijian heritage. He grew up in Christchurch and attended St Bede's College. At the age of 15, as part of a school exchange program, he moved to Sapporo, Japan, and enrolled at Sapporo Yamanote High School.
After completing his schooling, Leitch attended Tokai University. In 2008, he captained the Japan U20 team at the Junior World Championship. It was during this time that he became a Japanese national in 2013 and officially adopted the name Leitch Michael in Japanese format.
Leitch made his test match debut for Japan in 2008 against the USA in Nagoya when he was 20 years old. He quickly established himself as a regular member of the national team. In the 2011 Rugby World Cup, he gained recognition as one of Japan's best forwards. He received praise for his performance, including being named 'man of the match' in the match against Tonga, where he scored a try and made a crucial try-saving tackle.
Following the World Cup, Leitch joined the Toshiba Brave Lupus in the Top League. He made an immediate impact and was named in the league's team of the season. He received the "revelation of the season" award at the end of the season awards. He continued his impressive form and was named in the team of the season for a second consecutive season in 2012/2013.
Leitch briefly returned to New Zealand and was included in the Hamilton-based Chiefs' wider training squad for 2013. However, he faced injury setbacks, breaking his arm and leg in separate matches. He later signed a contract with the Chiefs for the 2015 Super Rugby season and had a standout season.
In April 2014, Leitch was appointed as the captain of the Japan national team by coach Eddie Jones, becoming the second New Zealand-born player to lead the Brave Blossoms. He captained Japan in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where they achieved a historic victory over South Africa, considered one of the biggest upsets in rugby history.
Leitch continued to make significant contributions to Japanese rugby, leading the team to victories over strong opponents like Ireland in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. He has been a key figure in the development of Japanese rugby and has earned over 70 appearances for Toshiba Brave Lupus, scoring 100 points.
Throughout his career, Leitch has showcased his leadership qualities and played a crucial role in Japan's rise as a competitive rugby nation.
Ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023, Leitch has been named in the training squad for Japan.
|Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo
|2023 - present
|2013 - 2017
|2018 - 2023