World Cup hosts Japan have been hit by a drugs scandal. Toyota Verblitz fly-half Ryota Kabashima has been arrested on suspicion of possessing cocaine, forcing the team to be withdrawn from the Top League Cup.
Toyota Verblitz are coached by Jake White, who led South Africa to World Cup glory in 2007 and were scheduled to face Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars at Iwagin Stadium in Iwate Prefecture in their first group stage match on Sunday.
The news comes as Japanese domestic rugby is dealing with the body blow of the Sunwolves franchise being ejected from Super Rugby due to poor results. Super Rugby has opted to instead revert to a 14-team round robin format.
Kabashima, 28, is an employee of Toyota Motor Corp and is suspected of violating the narcotics control law over the alleged possession of about one gram of cocaine, according to Aichi Prefectural Police.
The cocaine was discovered in Kabashima’s wallet after he left it in a taxi on April 10 while visiting Toyota, Aichi Prefecture. The taxi driver handed in the wallet two days later, and police identified the wallet from Kabashima’s driver’s licence. Kabashima has denied the charges, saying he “doesn’t remember,” according to police.
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— Rich Freeman (@FreemanrugbyJPN) June 20, 2019
Toyota Motor Corp has suspended its Top League team’s operations for the time being and told the Japan Rugby Football Union it intends to withdraw the side from the second edition of the Top League Cup, starting on Saturday and wrapping up August 10.
“It is regrettable that an athlete has been arrested who had entered into the world of fair play. We would like to apologise to everyone who has given their help and support so far,” the company said in a statement.
Toyota finished fourth in the Japan Rugby Top League last season and their squad includes South African Gio Aplon and former New Zealand sevens player Steven Yates.
WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary series on what the fans can expect in Japan at the World Cup
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