Japan chasing Rugby Championship berth

Japan would prefer to join the Rugby Championship than the Six Nations, says CEO Kensuke Iwabuchi.
Camera IconJapan would prefer to join the Rugby Championship than the Six Nations, says CEO Kensuke Iwabuchi. Credit: AP

The Japan Rugby Football Union is in talks with both the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship to ensure regular international games, but would prefer to be part of the southern hemisphere competition.

Japan reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup on home soil but did not play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, returning to action after 18 months against the British & Irish Lions in June 2021.

The Brave Blossoms won only one of their six matches last year, against Portugal.

"For our national teams to have not played for the best part of two years has had a huge impact," former Japan international and current CEO Kensuke Iwabuchi told the JRFU website.

"We definitely need to be involved in regular international competition, otherwise we cannot expect to maintain consistently strong sides.

"Europe has the Six Nations and the Southern Hemisphere have the Rugby Championship.

"We're in discussions with both competitions, but while Japan is technically in the Northern Hemisphere, from a time-zone perspective we're closer to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific nations, so it probably makes sense to connect with their competitions."

The Rugby Championship is contested by Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Iwabuchi said the team can take heart from solid displays in defeats by Ireland, Australia and Scotland last year and added they hoped to build on them before the next World Cup in France.

"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," Iwabuchi said.

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