The Courier-Mail

Super plan to dump Japan

- IAIN PAYTEN

EMERGENCY plans for a 2016 Super Rugby competitio­n without Japan have been drafted and shown to SANZAR broadcaste­rs amid a deepening crisis of confidence about the new Asian franchise.

Already struck by a worrying inertia in player recruitmen­t, Japan’s Super Rugby fortunes plummeted further yesterday with Eddie Jones confirming he is stepping down as Japan national coach post-World Cup, and that he will not coach the new Super Rugby franchise.

Jones is expected to take up a job with the Stormers.

Japan was announced last year as one of three new sides to join an expanded 18-team Super Rugby competitio­n next year, along with Argentina and a sixth South African franchise.

But, six months away from the 2016 competitio­n, Japan have signed only two players.

Officials from SANZAR and rival unions toured Japan this month and are so concerned about the situation that plans have been drafted for a delay of their inclusion in Super Rugby for several years.

The Courier-Mail under- stands alternativ­e models – one with 17 teams and one with 16 teams that only adds Argentina – have been drawn up.

There has even been discussion of sourcing a different 18th team other than Japan.

Japan’s problems boil down to the JRFU’s inability to sign players, most of whom are members of the Japanese national team.

Clubs in the Japanese Top League hold all the money and power, and it is believed the JRFU had been banking on them continuing to pay the majority of the salaries of athletes who will also play in Super Rugby, which sits between Top League seasons.

Clubs have baulked at that structure.

But SANZAR interim chief executive Brendan Morris said despite Japan being behind schedule, they were “very committed” to getting an 18-team Super Rugby competitio­n up and running.

“I don’t think it is any shock to anybody … that some of the progress (in Japan) isn’t as fast as some of the other teams. That’s no secret,” Morris said.

“We are working with them pretty closely at the moment to try and get them up to speed and get them across the line.”

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