Plans by Six Nations officials to run a one-off eight-team tournament this November have been thrown into jeopardy as reports from the Far East have claimed that Japan, the hosts who lit up the 2019 World Cup, will now not travel to take part due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

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Japan – along with Fiji – were supposed to join up with the half-dozen Six Nations countries to play in a tournament that would replace the traditional November tours where southern hemisphere teams visit those in the north. 

The plan was for two groups of four, giving each country three group matches before a single round of finals would take place on the first weekend of December. 

Group 1 was reportedly to consist of England, Ireland, Fiji and Wales, while Japan were set to join Scotland, Italy and France in Group 2.

However, that will no longer be the case, according to english.kyodonews.net, the Japanese website. In a report posted on Thursday, it reported: “Complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic prompted the JRFU to opt out of the European competition, which is planned to run from November to December, according to the source.

“With Japan heavily restricting the entry of foreign passport holders amid the pandemic, members of the Brave Blossoms coaching staff have been kept out of the country, making it difficult to hold a domestic camp in preparation for the tournament.”

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The withdrawal of Japan would be a serious blow to the proposed replacement tournament which is set to take place at the same time as the Rugby Championship featuring the All Blacks, Australia, South Africa and Argentina is due to happen in New Zealand.  

There has been much speculation regarding how World Rugby could assist Japan following their run to last year’s World Cup quarter-finals, with suggestions they could potentially be included in either an expanded Six Nations or Rugby Championship.

However, they have not played a single Test match since the finals with summer Test games against England and a November tour to Scotland and Ireland cancelled before plans for the one-off eight-team filler tournament emerged.

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