He is 34 years old. As a soldier, he challenged the competition for the position of the third row forward. In his 74th game for the national team, against France, he showed a brilliant performance.The reason for this was a new habit.
In January of this year, he will take on the challenge of playing in the domestic league one as a member of the current Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo, which he joined in 2011. They gradually improved their performance until they reached the top four in Japan for the first time since 2003, when they were in the old Top League.
The background. His colleague, Masataka Mikami, testifies.
Mikami has been a classmate of Leitch’s since their days at Tokai University, where they both represented Japan at the World Cup in England in 2015, winning a historic three matches.
The old friend, who prefaces his comment about Leitch by saying, “I don’t know if that’s the reason for his good form,” reveals what happened during practice, which was closed to the public due to infection control.
“I’ve been working with Matt Todd on fitness and contact exercises in addition to general practice.”
Todd, 34, plays the same flanker position as Leitch. He has represented the rugby Kingdom of New Zealand in 25 national matches.
At 185 centimeters tall and 104 kilograms, he is 4 centimeters and 9 kilograms shorter than Leitch, respectively. However, he stands out for his strength and athleticism when involved with the ball on the ground, and his tenacity when grabbed by opponents.
Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo head coach Todd Blackadder believes that this talent, who is less physically gifted than Leitch but has risen to the world’s top class, “He’s a role model. I always watch and learn from him,” said Leitch. He is a mentor, so to speak. Especially from the middle of the season onward, he has accompanied Todd to practice on his own, just as Mikami said he would.
In preparation for games on Saturdays and Sundays, Todd’s style is to do “conditioning” in the first half of the week, which raises his heart rate. Leitch followed this routine, partly because his own injury had healed.
Eventually, when asked about the reason for his good performance, he replied, “I think the amount of practice I’ve been doing has increased,” and even at the Japan national team’s training camp in Miyazaki, which began on June 3, he was able to positively challenge himself to multiple tough sessions a day.
Todd was also impressed by his generation of Japanese national team players.
“It’s great to see a player like Leitch, who is world class, yet so humble and hardworking,” Todd said. “To begin with, the players in the Brave Lupus team have a strong sense of commitment to each other.”
Leitch, who has roots in Fiji and New Zealand, first came to Japan at the age of 15. While at Sapporo Yamanote High School, he practiced steady basic repetitions, which is rare in his native New Zealand.
Perhaps it is in his nature, at least as an athlete, to try to overcome difficult situations.
“I’m getting older, and there are more and more young people around me. I want to do my best from the smallest things so that I don’t lose. First of all, it is important to focus on myself and qualify for the national team. It’s not good to be on the team just for experience.”
His sights are set on the 2023 World Cup in France. The veteran, who has never stopped being diligent, is aiming for his fourth trip to the big stage.