Super Rugby’s expansion to 18 teams from 2016 is officially complete with SANZAR formally confirming the participation of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) and Union Argentina de Rugby (UAR) at an Executive Committee meeting in London today.
The confirmation is the final stage of formalities and paves the way for the Tokyo and Buenos Aires-based franchises to start contracting players and staff ahead of their historic entry to Super Rugby in a little over 12 months from now.
SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters said, “It gives me great pleasure to welcome the JRFU and UAR who will join the Kings from South Africa as Super Rugby prepares to expand into a bold and exciting new era.
“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.
“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.
“Japan has also been the focus of strategic investment by the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) and 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.”
Tatsuzo Yabe, Chairman of the JRFU said, “It is a great pleasure and honour to be able to announce the historical decision of Japan’s entry to Super Rugby.
“It is absolutely essential for us to participate in the competition as we move toward a successful Rugby World Cup here in 2019.
“Joining the world’s highest international league is a challenge that will require significant transformation and tremendous efforts by us. However, it will certainly bring innovation to not only Japan, but also the Asian region as a whole.
“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.
“We believe that such positive development will be a driving force for Japan rugby to move forward on the world stage and 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 JRFU has also forged a relationship with the Singapore Rugby Union and Singapore Sports Hub that will see the state-of-the-art venue host three games per year, delivering Super Rugby to new Asian audiences.
Carlos Araujo, President of UAR said, “The entry of an Argentine franchise to Super Rugby will allow our sport to continue its growth, underpinned by participation in this great tournament which is something that fills us with joy and pride.
“We now face a huge challenge both on the sporting and organisational fronts. Ahead of us we have six very enjoyable years, first with Rugby World Cup and then this opportunity to enjoy our teams in the Southern Hemisphere elite, playing in Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship.
World Rugby Council member for Argentina, Agustin Pichot added, “Since we started with this project of insertion in the game’s elite, at the end of 2007, it was crucial to have regular competition for our players.
“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 world’s top tournament, Super Rugby.
“With this, we now complete the pathway for Argentine players from grassroots to the professional game. Entry to Super Ruby will give our top players an incredible opportunity to grow and our fans the chance to enjoy an Argentine side playing against the best players in the world for more than half a year every season for at least five years.”
Both the Japanese and Argentinean teams will play in the South African Group and will be positioned in opposing conferences. The final composition of these conferences are subject to approval by South African Rugby Union’s General Council.