Japan, Argentina to join 2016 Super Rugby tournament
Japan and Argentina have officially been given approval to enter teams in an expanded Super Rugby tournament from 2016.
Their places were confirmed at an executive board meeting in London on Thursday, paving the way for the two new franchises to start signing players.
The Japanese team will be based in Tokyo, but will also play three home matches a year in Singapore, while the Argentine side will play in Buenos Aires.
An additional team from South Africa, the Southern Kings, will also join the expanded competition, South Africa, New Zealand and Australian Rugby (SANZAR) announced.
“It gives us great pleasure to welcome the JRFU (Japan Rugby Football Union) and UAR (Union Argentina de Rugby), who will join the Kings from South Africa as Super Rugby prepares to expand into a bold and exciting new era,” SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters said.
“As top 10 ranked rugby nations with established high performance level leagues and over 100 000 players each, there is no doubt as to Japan and Argentina’s rugby readiness and passion for the sport.”
The teams from Japan and Argentina will play in the South African Group and will be positioned in opposing conferences, which are subject to approval by South African Rugby Union’s General Council.
Rugby Championship crucial
Argentina’s national team already play in the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship but joining the provincial competition would bring even more value, said Argentine World Rugby Council member Agustin Pichot.
“Playing in the Rugby Championship was crucial for this process but we still needed this final and key step of having an Argentine franchise in the worlds top tournament, Super Rugby,” he said.
“With this, we now complete the pathway for Argentine players from grassroots to the professional game.”
For Japan, which has already been awarded the 2019 World Cup hosting rights, it is further confirmation of Asia’s rising status in the game.
Singapore also bid for the Asian franchise but lost out to Japan. However they were given three home games a year and a round of the IRB World Sevens to be played at the centrepiece of their new $1-billion Sports Hub.
“Joining the world’s highest international league is a challenge that will require significant transformation and tremendous efforts by us,” JRFU Chairman Tatsuzo Yabe said.
“However, it will certainly bring innovation to not only Japan, but also the Asian region as a whole.” – Reuters.