World Rugby could hand Japan an invitation into an expanded Six Nations in a bid to capitalise on the recent World Cup in the country.
According to the Daily Mail, the idea has been “floated about in private” since the Rugby Championship – the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of the Six Nations – wasn’t sold on including Japan in their competition.
No formal discussions have taken place regarding extending any formal invitation to Japan, however the growing popularity of the sport in Asia has put the Brave Blossoms on the radar of traditional rugby powers.
It’s unlikely the idea has been placed before the nations already participating in the tournament, the report adds. There have, however, been ongoing talks about how to broaden the competition, likely at the expense of Italy who racked up their 24th successive Six Nations defeat earlier this year.
Former England boss Sir Clive Woodward is amongst those in favour of a promotion and relegation system. The inclusion of Japan would capitalise on their current status and success after topping a World Cup group including Ireland and Scotland.
“The atmosphere in Japan [during the World Cup] has been fantastic,” Welsh winger Shane Williams said in an interview with Yahoo Sport. “They’ve got to do something like this more often.”
Former Irish international Jamie Heaslip told Yahoo Sport: “If you think about how you grow this game of rugby, worldwide, it was a brave move for them to come to Japan and they maybe got a little bit of criticism over it.
“But they've broken all sorts of TV records in Japan alone and then opened up to a brand new market.”
The Brave Blossoms made history this year by reaching their first ever World Cup quarter-final, becoming only the fourth non-tier side to do so. Japan clinched a famous 28-21 victory over Scotland to finish top of Pool A – an achievement for the whole nation as it arrived less than 24 hours after Typhoon Hagibis had wreaked havoc across Japan.
Shane Williams and Jamie Heaslip were talking on behalf of HEINEKEN.
HEINEKEN is a Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, and HEINEKEN’s relationship with World Rugby is one of the most recognisable and longest-standing partnerships in sport.
Featured from our writers