There is to be no Rugby Championship expansion. Speculation of a new format for the Southern Hemisphere’s premier international competition has pointed to possibly adding Fiji or Japan. However Americas Rugby News has been told that no changes will be made.
Fiji is ranked above Argentina in World Rankings. Samoa has historically been higher than Fiji while Tonga had, until recently, been above Japan. But with Japan’s success in Rugby World Cup 2015 effort have focused on the Asian powerhouse to be included.
Unlike Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, Japan is an economic giant. The country has the second largest population of all Rugby World Cup regulars. Indeed only the USA has more. Japan is also to host Rugby World Cup 2019.
Interest in Japanese rugby is at an all-time high for these reasons. Involvement in Super Rugby has also contributed to the speculation. In an effort to improve performance changes have been made which point towards having a more competitive season from the Sunwolves in 2018.
World Rugby Vice Chairman, Agustín Pichot was asked this week by Santiago Angel about Japan’s status in a new deal with the Rugby Championship.
“They have sufficient resources to do it. The problem is that with the new international calendar (2020-2030) it will not be possible to add even more more fixture. Because of this, Japan cannot join as the fifth team. It could only do so if it were to replace one of the existing teams currently involved”.
New Zealand Rugby CEO, Steve Tew has argued against expansion to include Japan. He has done so on the basis of his view that the Japanese are not ready. Pichot, though, has supported the move to add Japan.
In talking about this very matter, Pichot told Angel that Tew’s view point is simple:
“New Zealand wants competitiveness”.