Japan coach Jamie Joseph named the 31 players Thursday that will represent the nation at the upcoming Rugby World Cup, saying the squad will "give 150 percent" to achieve their goal of making the knockout stage for the first time.
Captained by flanker Michael Leitch, the squad has just 10 players with previous World Cup experience and includes one uncapped player in hooker Takuya Kitade.
At the other end of the scale, veteran lock Luke Thompson will be appearing in his fourth World Cup, while Leitch, hooker Shota Horie and scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka will be taking part in their third straight tournament.
"The intangible asset we have is that we are very tight as a group," said Joseph, who as a player represented New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup and Japan four years later.
"Of all the teams I have coached, I have always tried to create a group that will do anything to achieve their goal, and I can confidently say this group is aligned and ready to go."
All but three of the players were part of the squad that recently won the Pacific Nations Cup, the exceptions being Kitade and props Isileli Nakajima and Koo Ji Won, who return from injury.
Joseph said Kitade's inclusion at the expense of Suntory Sungoliath clubmate Kosuke Horikoshi came down to his line-out throwing and the latter having not developed as quickly as hoped due to playing prop in the last Top League season.
Nakajima and Koo's inclusion means there is no place for prop Shogo Miura and flanker Shunsuke Nunomaki as Joseph opts to stabilize the scrum.
"All the teams we play will target our set-piece," Joseph said. "So we need players who can handle the pressure at set-piece and players who are best suited to play our game."
That game, he said, is based on "speed, skill and unstructure...and the players are now fit enough to play that game."
Joseph said the team had been training "at a level 25 percent higher than test match rugby," and combined with the ability of players to play different positions and roles, he believed the team are in a great position heading into the tournament.
"Everyone understands what they need to do to put the team in the best place to win a test match," he said.
And that, he said, was also the reason for selecting a record 15 foreign-born players such as Thompson, flanker Pieter "Lappies" Labuschagne, and locks James Moore and Uwe Helu.
"They give us a physical presence. Some have also played a lot of test match rugby and give us experience," Joseph said.
"We are not going to beat Tier 1 teams by a huge margin. We will get one or two opportunities and we need to execute them under pressure, and their experience gives us confidence that we can do that."
Flanker Kazuki Himeno -- who will miss the final warm-up game against South Africa after spraining an ankle in training -- has been included and will go up against experienced campaigners such as Leitch, Amanaki Lelei Mafi, Hendrik Tui, Rio Olympian Yoshitaka Tokunaga and Labuschagne in the battle to win the three starting back-row berths.
Among the 13 backs selected, Joseph has opted to go for three No. 9s in Tanaka, Kaito Shigeno and Yutaka Nagare, while the raw power of Ataata Moeakiola sees the wing included despite sitting in the stands for the whole of the PNC.
Wings Kenki Fukuoka and Kotaro Matsushima, who both featured in the 2015 tournament, and Lomano Lava Lemeki, who helped Japan's sevens team to fourth place at the Rio Olympics, were also named, as was fullback Ryohei Yamanaka, who cemented his spot with a good performance in the final game of the PNC.
Tanaka (70 caps), Thompson (66), Leitch (62) Horie (61) and flyhalf Yu Tamura (57) lead the way in terms of experience, while 10 of the players, including Kitade, have yet to play 10 test matches.
The Brave Blossoms play the Springboks in a repeat of their RWC 2015 game in Kumagaya on Sept. 6 before they are officially welcomed to the World Cup a week later.
They kick off this year's tournament on Sept. 20 in Tokyo against Russia before playing Ireland, Samoa and Scotland in Pool A.