Millar named in 52-strong Japan squad

Craig Millar
Craig Millar
Former Otago and Highlanders prop Craig Millar has taken his first step to wearing a Japanese jersey.

Millar (30) has been named in a 52 strong Japanese squad to start training for a game against the British and Irish Lions in Edinburgh in June.

The loosehead prop first moved at the end of 2017 and has enjoyed his time in the land of the rising sun.

Millar told the Otago Daily Times last year he had adjusted well to his time in Japan.

He enjoyed the lifestyle and had become used to Japanese customs. The rugby was improving all the time and he had signed on for another couple of seasons with the side he plays for, the Panasonic Wild Knights.

Millar first played for the Highlanders in 2014, a shoulder injury put him out in 2015, when the Highlanders won the title, and he played another couple of seasons after that.

All up he played 10 games for the Highlanders and 45 games for Otago.

He also captained Otago on the odd occasion.

Miller had said last year he had given no thought to playing for the Japanese side.

But he now qualified for it through residency and has been named in the squad by Japan coach Jamie Joseph.

It will be the first squad Joseph has named since Japan performed so well at the 2019 World Cup in its own country. Joseph is scheduled to return to Japan from New Zealand next month.

Joseph will not be short of former Highlanders colleagues.

He will be assisted by current Highlanders coach Tony Brown, who was also part of the coaching team which was so successful in 2019.

The Highlanders are set to line up in the Super Rugby transtasman competition, with their last regular season game on June 11.

The Japanese side will go into camp in late May and then play a trial game on June 12 in Japan against a yet to be named opponent.

The trainer for the Japanese side is former Highlanders trainer Andrew Beardmore, who left the Highlanders at the end of the 2019 season after nine seasons with the team.

Andy Watts, who is also the Highlanders analyst, is the analyst for the Japanese team.

Other New Zealanders who are new to the Japanese squad are lock Mark Abbot, who used to play for Hawke’s Bay, and former Auckland lock Liaki Moli. Young Australians Ben Gunher and Jack Cornelsen, son of former Wallaby Greg Cornelsen, have also made the squad.

Highlanders loose forward Kazuki Himeno has been picked in the squad. The squad numbers 29 forwards and 23 backs.

The Japanese squad will be trimmed to 35 and is set to take on the Lions in Edinburgh on June 26. The Lions side is set to play three tests in South Africa.

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