Discussions to keep Japan involved in any form of Super Rugby next year have been held between competition organisers, according to a report out of Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that plans to include the top two Japanese Top League teams in the competition’s playoffs alongside the winners of the New Zealand, Australian and South African-Argentinian conferences are among one of a variety of options being considered.
While the feasibility of such a concept remains uncertain, the report states that all competition restructure models that have been proposed assume the continued unification of four SANZAAR partners.
Plans for Super Rugby to revert 14-team, round-robin format next year after 10 seasons of a conference-based system are being reconsidered due to the travel and financial implications that have been brought with the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the Herald, the most likely option given those variables would see the three conferences run as domestic competitions, with the best teams proceeding to compete in a cross-border finals series.
That playoffs model could be expanded to include the two best teams in Japan’s premier club league, which were the Panasonic Wild Knights and the Kobelco Steelers before the cancellation of the 2020 season.
Despite the impending departure of the Sunwolves from Super Rugby, the Herald reports that the inclusion of Japan in future competitions has plenty of appeal for Australia and New Zealand due the nation’s massive commercial market and similar time zone.
With the Top League running concurrently with Super Rugby, there is a reported eagerness in Japan to stay involved in the SANZAAR competition, although the Herald states there are “too many moving parts” for the two leagues to merge.
The Sunwolves are expected to be one of six teams in the new Australian domestic competition that is due to kick off in July, joining the country’s four Super Rugby franchises and the Western Force.
Sunwolves chief executive Yuji Watase said earlier this week that his club had been in talks with Rugby Australia about participating in the domestic league, stating that he would like the Tokyo-based team to “leave a legacy” before being discontinued from Super Rugby at the end of this year.
However, the Herald reports that administrators in Australia aren’t confident that they will gain the adequate approval from federal government to let the Sunwolves into the country.
The New Zealand sides, meanwhile, will kickstart their domestic campaign – branded as Super Rugby Aotearoa – on June 13 when the Highlanders host the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
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