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Plans drawn up to cut Japan from Super Rugby

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Emergency plans for a Super Rugby tournament in 2016 without Japan have been
drawn up and shown to SANZAR’s broadcasters as fears grow by the day that Japan
will not be ready.

Japan’s plans to join Super Rugby suffered a severe blow on Tuesday when former
Brumbies, Reds and Wallabies coach Eddie Jones confirmed that he will not be
involved in the Japanese side next year.

Jones had been appointed as Director of Rugby for the Japanese franchise but
he will not continue as coach of the Japan national side after the world cup
and is almost certain to join the Stormers in Cape Town.

Ironically this season’s Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has moved to Japan
to coach Kobelco Steelers.

The Japanese Rugby Union have only signed two players for next season and the
players who play for the national side who already play Super Rugby are choosing
to stay with foreign teams instead of playing for their home team.

Keita Inagaki, Michael Leitch, Kotaro Matsushima, Fumiaki Tanka, Hendrik Tui
and Akihito Yamada – all played Super Rugby this season.

New Zealand born Leitch who is also Japan’s captain has chosen to to stay with
the Chiefs while Tui, the New Zealand-born Japanese test No 8 has re-signed
with the Reds.

Japan was confirmed as one of three new Super Rugby sides for the 2016 season
in 2014, along with Argentina and a sixth South African franchise the Southern
Kings.

The Kings are said to be struggling financially and one of the options is to
include only the Argentina side in 2016 while the Kings sort out their finances,
coaching and player arrangments.

SANZAR officials are understood to have toured Japan earlier this month and
they left being so concerned that plans have been drawn up to delay Japan’s
inclusion in Super Rugby for several years.

Super Rugby is not Japan’s only problem as they will host the 2019 Rugby world
cup and last month the stadium that was planned to host the world cup final
were scrapped.

Acording to Daily Telegraph alternative Super Rugby competition models have
been drawn up – one has 17 teams and another with 16 teams (including only Argentina)
and SANZAR’s broadcast partners are understood to be open to the concepts.

The reports say that there has even been a discussion of sourcing a another
18th team that is not from Japan.

A 16 team format could end up having local derbies in Australia and New Zealand
who will have to fill up their schedules but it would also mean that the Southern
Kings are excluded for some time and this will lead to political pressure in
South Africa.

The main problem is that Japan are really struggling to sign players with the
funds they have available and enticing players into joining a team that will
play over half of their season on the road.

Most of the money in Japanese Rugby lies with the company owned clubs that
make up the Top League and the JRFU had hoped that they would continue to pay
the players who’ll also play in Super Rugby.

This concept has not gone down well with the clubs which leaves the JRFU battling
to sign quality players.

In stark contrast to this is the Argentina Super Rugby team who have signed
almost the whole of their squad with the help of IRB funding. SANZAR nations
are reluctant to support Japan financially are they are cash strapped themselves.

There is also the concern now that given Japan’s lack of preparation and the
short amount of time left they will not be able to field a competitive side
which could see lopsided scores and harm rugby’s expansion in Asia, instea
of helping it.

Former SANZAR CEO Greg Peters has joined the Argentina Rugby Union and interim
chief executive Brendan Morris admits that Japan is behind schedule but says
that are e “very committed ” to getting an 18-team Super Rugby competition
up and running next year.

“I don’t think it is any shock to anybody … that some of the
progress (in Japan) isn’t as fast as some of the other teams. That’s
no secret, ” Morris told the Daily Telegraph.

“We are currently monitoring that. We are monitoring all three to be
honest. With Japan being new they obviously have a fair few more challenges
that the other guys haven’t had to jump over. We are working with them
pretty closely at the moment to try and get them up to speed and get them across
the line, which would be great for everybody. “

When asked if SANZAR had drafter a Super Rugby model for 2016 without Japan
Morris said: “There have been 35 different models going around over the
past two years about what Super Rugby would potentially look like but at the
moment we are very committed to an 18-team competition, because that’s
what we want. We intend to get there but obviously the next couple of weeks
are pretty crucial. ”

Morris said that the facing the JRFU were “no different to the other
17 teams in the comp – contracting players at a market rate. “

“Players have a lot of choice, particularly in Japan with the Top League
competition. The challenge for them is to offer them an attractive package to
the players to be part of the team, ” Morris said.

“They are going through those challenges at the moment in it is a little
bit like the UK scenario, where the clubs have a bit more cash and a bit more
power than the national union. That’s the challenge they are finding at
the moment, with enticing the players. They will get there. We’d like
them to be advanced than what they are but it is what it is, and we are trying
to bridge that gap for them. “

Morris said that they had not put a deadline on Japan Super Rugby team to sign
their players as it is difficult situation particularly given the “99
per cent ” of the target players are all at the World Cup next month.

“We are conscious that the JRFU don’t want to be distracting players
who need to be concentrating on the World Cup, ” he said.

Japan beat off strong competition from Singapore to win the 18th or Asian Super
Rugby side and Jones pleaded for their inclusion in Super Rugby at the time.

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