“It’s an amazing opportunity for us to play against the Lions. All of us will be nervous but at the same time, it’s a new team so there is a lot of excitement.”
Kotaro Matsushima has enjoyed a successful season in the Top 14 and he is looking forward to taking another step forward against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Matsushima, who scored five tries at the 2019 World Cup including a hattrick in the opening game against Samoa.
"I can’t imagine I will have another chance to play the Lions so it will be a very important match for me. If we can get a win against them there may be more chances to play against the Lions, so this match will be a benchmark for the future of Japanese rugby.”
Japan reached the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup beating Joe Schmidt’s Ireland and Gregor Townsend’s Scotland in the pool stages of their home tournament.
Born in South Africa to a Japanese mother and Zimbabwean father, Matsushima took up rugby in his youth and featured in the Sharks academy before he joined Suntory Sungoliath in 2014, the same year he made his Test debut for the Brave Blossoms.
“I didn’t expect that I would play 27 games,” says Matsushima of his first season with Clermont.
“I was targeting 20 games, so it was good that I could play more than I expected.
“I think I improved a lot in the physicality. I became better as the season went on, so for the next season I would like to be better again.”
Japan warmed up for the game by beating a Sunwolves select side 32-17 in Shizuoka on June 12.