Why Japan would prefer to join Rugby Championship over Six Nations

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 2 Jan 2022, 12:56PM
Japanese loose forward Kazuki Himeno in action against Ireland in 2021. (Photo / Getty Images)
Japanese loose forward Kazuki Himeno in action against Ireland in 2021. (Photo / Getty Images)

Why Japan would prefer to join Rugby Championship over Six Nations

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 2 Jan 2022, 12:56PM

Japan wants to join the Rugby Championship but is also talking to the Six Nations about becoming part of the European competition.

The Jamie Joseph-coached Brave Blossoms made the World Cup quarter-finals on home soil in 2019 but have played very little in the past two years, mainly because of the pandemic.

Their chief executive Kensuke Iwabuchi said has had a "huge impact" on the team and Japan is desperate to relaunch their international aspirations.

"For our national teams to have not played for the best part of two years has had a huge impact. We definitely need to be involved in regular international competition, otherwise we cannot expect to maintain consistently strong sides," he said in an article on the Japanese Rugby Football Union website.

"Europe has the Six Nations and the Southern Hemisphere have the Rugby Championship. We are in discussions with both competitions, but while Japan is technically in the Northern Hemisphere, from a time-zone perspective we are closer to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific nations, so it probably makes sense to connect with their competitions."

Japan did not play in 2020 and lost matches against the British and Irish Lions, Ireland, Australia and Scotland last year. This one test win in 2021 came in a 38-25 victory over Portugal.

But while the results weren't on their side in 2021, Iwabuchi remained optimistic about their preparations ahead of the 2023 World Cup in France.

"We didn't necessarily have fantastic results in the lead up to 2019, yet we performed very well at the tournament," Iwabuchi said.

"Considering that in 2021 we were competitive against Australia and Scotland, and in our first match against Ireland, I think we did relatively well.

"I remain very optimistic regarding the Brave Blossoms and think that with two years of solid preparation ahead of France 2023, we can be in a position to achieve similar, if not better results than 2019."