Japanese top official hails Super Rugby entry as boost for Asia

By Alastair Himmer ,AFP

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 organizers SANZAR formally approved the entry of a team 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.�� Japan coach Eddie Jones told AFP: ��It gives Japan’s top players the opportunity to play consistent top level rugby, which will hone their skills far greater than playing 10 Test matches a year and Top League. It’s a wonderful opportunity for players to develop.�� Japan’s inclusion, along with that of a franchise from Buenos Aires, was confirmed late on Thursday. As part of the agreement the Tokyo-based team will play three home matches per season in Singapore in a bid to help grow the sport in the region, organizers 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 �X especially younger generations �X to compete at this level.��