Rebels continue Japanese ties

Speedy outside back Kotaro Matsushima will join the Melbourne Rebels for the 2016 Super Rugby season, continuing their tradition of signing Japanese internationals.

The 22-year-old, who represented Japan at last year’s Rugby World Cup in England, will be the fourth Japanese player to represent the Rebels in as many years – following Shota Horie, Male Sau and Keita Inagaki.

Matsushima, who can play wing, centre or fullback, started all four World Cup matches, including the upset victory over his native-born South Africa.

His mother is Japanese and his father from Zimbabwe.

He has scored six tries in 16 international appearances, and was signed by the NSW Waratahs last year but never played a Super Rugby game.

“I am very excited to have this great opportunity for the second straight year (in Super Rugby),” Matsushima said.

“I know that this challenge with the Rebels will help me grow and improve my rugby skills.”

Matsushima will join the Rebels on a short-term contract at the end of February from Japanese Top League outfit Suntory Sungoliath.

Meanwhile an understrength Rebels line-up will look to atone for a disappointing 59-7 loss to the Auckland Blues in their first trial match this week.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan said errors proved costly but gave credit to the star-studded Blues.

“The score-line was pretty indicative of the way Auckland played,” said McGahan.

“I thought the first half we were in there but we had to many individual mistakes which took a bit of momentum away from us.

“That result certainly won’t hurt us.”

Melbourne’s final trial is Samoa at AAMI Park on February 18.

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