Ja­pan’s Su­per Rugby readi­ness a con­cern for Ki­wis

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

JA­PAN won ad­mir­ers for their im­pres­sive per­for­mances at the Rugby World Cup but that has done lit­tle to ease con­cerns from the Southern Hemi­sphere’s rul­ing body about their readi­ness for Su­per Rugby, New Zealand boss Steve Tew said.

The Brave Blos­soms won three matches at the World Cup and pro­vided the up­set of the tour­na­ment with a shock vic­tory over South Africa.

Ja­pan will also host Asia’s first Rugby World Cup in 2019 but the coun­try an­nounced in July the pro­posed new 80 000seater na­tional sta­dium, the cen­tre­piece of the 2020 Olympic Games, would not be com­pleted in time to host matches.

Yoko­hama Sta­dium will host the 2019 fi­nal in­stead while Tokyo Sta­dium will stage the tour­na­ment opener.

High­light­ing Ja­pan’s grow­ing stature in the game, it was also se­lected to en­ter a team, named the Sun­wolves, in an ex­panded Southern Hemi­sphere Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion, but Tew said yes­ter­day gov­ern­ing body SAN­ZAR still had con­cerns.

“We’re all very ex­cited by what the Ja­panese achieved at Rugby World Cup but we re­main pretty ner­vous about their readi­ness for Su­per Rugby, and that’s their next step for­ward,” Tew told lo­cal me­dia.

“I wouldn’t say it’s shaky, but we are con­cerned about any ex­pan­sion when you bring new teams into a com­pe­ti­tion, and it takes a bit of time for them to bed down.

“We had a SAN­ZAR meet­ing in Sydney this week and a Ja­panese guy gave a very de­tailed pre­sen­ta­tion on things in place.

“A lot of that was en­cour­ag­ing, but they haven’t an­nounced a coach yet and haven’t got a full player ros­ter, so they are two things they’ve got to put the foot on the throt­tle for.”

The Sun­wolves, who will en­ter the ex­panded com­pe­ti­tion along with a team in Ar­gentina and South Africa’s Kings, will also play some games in Sin­ga­pore in a bid to en­cour­age the spread of rugby through­out Asia.

They are sched­uled to play their open­ing match against South African side the Li­ons in Tokyo on Fe­bru­ary 27.

While there were con­cerns about Ja­pan’s en­try into the com­pe­ti­tion, Tew said the Ar­gen­tine team would be a hand­ful for the es­tab­lished sides.

“Ar­gentina will be in very, very good shape,” he added.

“They’re very well or­gan­ised, very pre­pared and they’ve got a very strong player ros­ter.

“They might ac­tu­ally be a quite con­sid­er­able worry and they’re go­ing to add con­sid­er­able colour to the com­pe­ti­tion.”

Ar­gentina reached the semi-fi­nals of the World Cup last month, where they lost to Aus­tralia. – Reuters

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