Could Japan join the Six Nations championship?
World Cup hosts would be a more attractive proposition for fans than Italy
The Rugby World Cup is over but a new adventure could be about to begin for Japan, reports the Daily Mail. The paper says that the tournament hosts did such a good job - on and off the pitch - that plans are afoot to invite Japan to join the Six Nations Championship.
The idea “has been floated in private” after the southern hemisphere equivalent of the Six Nations - the Rugby Championship (Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa) gave a lukewarm response to the suggestion of Japan joining their tournament.
At the most, says the Mail, they said they would not be able to welcome Japan into the fold for “four or five years”, a delay which is unacceptable to World Rugby, the sport’s governing body.
The southern hemisphere nations were similarly slow in permitting Argentina to join their tournament, the Pumas participating in the Rugby Championship for the first time in 2012, five years after they had finished third in the World Cup.
Land of the rising sums
World Rugby don’t want something similar to happen to Japan, particularly given the commerical opportunities in a country where rugby is fast becoming the most popular sport. The recent World Cup showcased the fans’ enthusiasm for rugby and the fact that Japan reached the quarter-final for the first time (beating Scotland and Ireland along the way) proved the potential for further growth.
The Mail says formal discussions have not yet taken place but “key figures within the Six Nations organisation have expressed an interest in creating a tournament that stretches 6,000 miles to the Far East”.
The logistics of such a move would be a challenge to the European competition organisers but in recent seasons there have been calls to broaden the horizons of a tournament that many feel has become jaded. Italy last won a Six Nations match in 2015 and Georgia have been pushing for inclusion by introducing relegation and promotion with the Six Nations ‘B’ that involves that likes of themselves, Russia and Romania.
None of those countries play a particularly appealing style of rugby, however, unlike Japan, whose pace and panache illuminated the tournament. That makes them attractive to broadcasters and sponsors, says the Mail, while fans would probably enjoy a trip to Tokyo in March more than they would one to Tbilisi.