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Japan looks to future rugby growth and enhanced international opportunities

Japan looks to future rugby growth and enhanced international opportunities
October 21, 2019
Sport /

While Japan’s Rugby World Cup journey came to an end at the hands of South Africa last night, passion for the sport fuelled by hosting the tournament looks set to see the creation on a new domestic league and a demand for the nation to be given more opportunities on the international stage.

Domestically, the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) reportedly wants to move quickly ahead with plans for a new domestic league that would attract international stars, to capitalise on the excitement created by the national team’s World Cup performances.

Nikkei reports that JRFU Vice President Katsuyuki Kiyomiya said he will hold a news conference in Tokyo on 18th November to set out the plans for a competition that would launch by Autumn 2021.

Kiyomiya advised “this World Cup is a big event Japanese rugby has not experienced before and we are tested on how we take the excitement and enthusiasm created by this event to the next level.”

Kiyomiya wants a 12-team league, running from August to January so that it doesn’t overlap with the Southern Hemisphere’s Super Rugby championship. He hopes that the league could therefore attract players from Super Rugby, although recognises there would be difficulties to surmount around contracting and player rest periods. He told Nikkei the league would aim to generate annual revenue of 50 billion yen (US$460 million) from the sale of media and sponsorship rights.

While Japan already has a domestic league, the 16-team Top League, it is small in scale and doesn’t attract major players or generate a profit.

Most teams are run under Japan’s industry-led sports model, whereby large corporations operate teams for public welfare purposes.

Internationally, Japan’s achievement in reaching the quarter-finals of the competition reinforce World Rugby’s plans to grow the game.

However, with the Sunwolves ejected from the Super Rugby competition and World Rugby’s plans for a new Nations Championship shelved earlier this year, the challenge exists for Japan to be given opportunities to regularly play against the top tier of rugby nations.

One suggestion is that they play, by invitation, in either Europe’s Six Nations or the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship. However, as yet there is no such indication that invitations to these events will be forthcoming.

Commenting on the success of the tournament, World Rugby Chairman, Bill Beaumont stated “Japan 2019 is already one of the greatest Rugby World Cups, characterised by the incredible warmth and support of the Japanese public.

“(The tournament shows) the power of sport to unite a nation, the awakening of Japan to rugby and how the heroics of the Brave Blossoms have captured hearts and minds around the world.”

Nigel Benton, Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management.

Images courtesy of Rugby World Cup organising committee/Facebook.

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