After Japan secured a place in the World Cup quarter-finals, beating Ireland and Scotland in the process, it has become a matter of when – not if – they join one of rugby’s top international competitions.
A staggering 60 million people in Japan watched their team beat Scotland on Sunday to top Pool A and book their first-ever quarter-final against South Africa this weekend.
They have clearly proven they can compete with tier one nations and deserve a seat at the top table, but the question where do they go may be the biggest hurdle to overcome for World Rugby.
This has sparked an enormous discussion on social media, as people have been calling for them to join the Six Nations, boosting the number to seven or even implementing relegation in a move that would change the complexion of the competition dramatically.
Currently, the furthest any team needs to travel is from Edinburgh to Rome, so adding Japan to the competition would end this convenient geographical proximity. But some people on Twitter have noted that the Rugby Championship spans the entire southern hemisphere and works.
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Although the Six Nations’ selling point is that all teams are within close proximity of one another, it will be interesting as to whether the growth of the game outweighs the commercial interests. A slightly more convincing argument may be that a seven-nation competition – or even eight including Georgia – will create a cluttered calendar for players that already have a taxing workload.
This is why there are as many fans that are calling for them to join the Rugby Championship, which only has the four teams presently. With Fiji also proving at this RWC that they deserve to be regarded as one of rugby’s top teams, they could also find themselves in the Rugby Championship.
Plans for a new club competition in Japan could force Southern Hemisphere test stars to choose between the international arena and the riches on offer in Asia.https://t.co/7BLCYr23ho
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 15, 2019
This could create a southern hemisphere version of the Six Nations, played in a similar format to the existing competition. However, the problem with this idea is the geography as the competition would then be played in four continents and in both the northern and southern hemisphere.
With all this talk about Japan and Fiji joining top competitions, it is increasingly becoming similar to the Nations Championship that was proposed by World Rugby. This idea was rejected by some nations, although fans are calling for something that now sounds very similar. This has been the reaction:
Japan and Fiji really should be in the Rugby Championship
— ? (@BoxFreshLitha) October 14, 2019
Add Japan and Georgia to a restructured northern hemisphere comp. and Samoa, Tonga and Fiji to the Rugby Championship. Ditch the Prem Rugby Cup to free up time in the congested season calendar. With promotion and relegation to both.
— DangerSmurf (@SmurfDanger) October 15, 2019
— Steven monteith (@Stevenronmon) October 13, 2019
Hey @WorldRugby, you know what to do. +Japan and Fiji for Rugby Championship immediately
— Donnacha McCormack??????? (@dunta90) October 13, 2019
Get Japan in the Rugby Championship now. Anything else and they will eventually lose their momentum.#RWC2019
— Reginaldo Rosario ?? (@Regi1700) October 13, 2019
If Argentina can be in the Rugby Championship despite being on the other side of the world to Australia and New Zealand: who says that we can't make the Six Nations the Seven Nations with Japan? I don't think anyone would object to that after the way they've played! #JPNvSCO
— IceAgeComing ?????? (@IceAgeComingSA) October 13, 2019
Bring Japan ?? to six nations and make it seven nations !! ( Or keep it at six and Bin the Scots ?? )
— Harley T R Williams (@HarleyTWilliams) October 13, 2019
Japan ?? must be given tier one status hey get them in the six nations @rugbyworldcup
— Russell Lawrance (@Strive_Excel) October 13, 2019
A timezone competition has also been suggested, which would see South Africa join the European competition, and Japan join the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. That is one alternative that shows promise, but once again provides problems regarding Argentina’s place.
What is clear after this RWC is that Japan are now a top team with a huge amount of support. As a point of comparison, Italy, who have been in the Six Nations now for 20 years, have never reached a quarter-final.
The lingering problem, however, is where Japan fit into the global rugby landscape, but something must be done as soon as possible.
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