Japan hails Super Rugby entry

2014-11-21 07:48
Super Rugby trophy (Getty Images)

Tokyo - Japan's formal entry into an expanded Super Rugby competition in 2016 will provide a shot in the arm for the game across Asia, according to the country's top rugby official.

After tournament organisers SANZAR formally approved the entry of teams from Tokyo, Japan Rugby Football Union chairman Tatsuzo Yabe promised: "It will certainly bring innovation to not only Japan, but also the Asian region as a whole."

Teams from the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires have also been approved.

As part of Japan's inclusion, confirmed late on Thursday, its Tokyo-based team will play three home matches per season in Singapore in a bid to help grow the sport in the region, organisers added.

Japan had been desperate to join the competition, which will be expanded to 18 teams for the 2016 season, as they prepare to host the 2019 World Cup, with national coach Eddie Jones saying Asia's top rugby nation would be "climbing a mountain" without it.

And Yabe added: "It is absolutely essential for us to participate in the competition as we move toward a successful Rugby World Cup.

"We are also convinced that participating in Super Rugby will encourage greater interest in our domestic rugby and it will become a big dream and goal for those who play rugby in Japan -- especially younger generations -- to compete at this level."

The inclusion of teams from Japan and Argentina had been floated for some time, despite some concern over the extra travel time, before the governing body for Australia, New Zealand and South African rugby rubber-stamping their addition.

"We believe that such a positive development will be a driving force for Japan rugby to move forward on the world stage," said Yabe.

"We will continue to make every endeavour to be successful at this level as we look toward Super Rugby in 2016, the 2019 Rugby World Cup and beyond."

The confirmation is the final stage of formalities and paves the way for the two new franchises to start contracting players and staff.

SANZAR noted that Japan offered a lucrative new market for rugby's premier international club competition.

"With a heritage stretching back some 115 years, Japan also offers tremendous infrastructure and an active fan base that we view as pivotal to the ongoing sustainability of the team," said SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters.

"Japan has also been the focus of strategic investment by the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby).

"We view the region as a high growth, high potential sports and economic market with the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Olympic Games and now Super Rugby on the imminent horizon."

Japan broke into the world's top 10 earlier this year after a string of 10 successive wins, culminating in victory over Six Nations side Italy. Jones has targeted a place in the quarter-finals at next year's World Cup but Japan have won just once at the sport's showcase event, beating Zimbabwe in 1991.

Read more on:    sanzar  |  rugby

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