Super Rugby side in Japan will help national team

Australian born Japanese international Craig Wing believes that a Super Rugby franchise in Japan could help the nation to become a force in World Rugby.

Former Rugby League star Wing has been playing in Japan for almost five years after spending 12 years in the NRL.

Thirty-four-year-old Wing became eligible to play for Japan last year after making his international debut he has gone on to play seven Tests for the Asian rugby champions.

Japan’s national side is coached by former Reds and Brumbies coach Eddie Jones and under his guidance the team have gone from being ranked 15th to 10th in the world rankings.

Wing says that if Japan had a Super Rugby side in 2016 coupled with the Rugby World Cup being held in Japan in 2019 the nation could continue to climb up the rankings.

“It could really unlock great things for Japanese rugby,” Wing told the Daily Telegraph from Kobe.

SANZAR are understood to be close to naming whether Singapore or Japan will make up the 18th Super Rugby team when the tournament expands from 15 to 18 teams in 2016.

Singapore had strong momentum early on due to favourable travel factors but SANZAR are now thought to be favouring Japan due to it’s stronger rugby history and financial backing.

Jones said that some of the issues of travel could resolved by playing matches in other Asian cities – even Singapore.

“It would be a great result. It would be great for Japanese rugby, especially leading into the World Cup here in 2019,” Wing said.

“Japan definitely has the population to be successful. There are big numbers of players in high schools and the university comp is huge. “

“Soccer was kind of in a similar situation to what rugby is now, before the Japan/Korea World Cup, and now soccer is massive over here.”

“Ideally you’d like to see something like that happen with rugby, and something like having a team in Super Rugby would create a huge interest over here.

“A team that got into the Super Rugby competition would straight away generate a tremendous amount of interest. I sense Japanese rugby just needs that extra push and it can become a massive sport here as well in a world sense.”

Whilst Japan have regularly featured in Rugby World Cups they have traditionally struggled against bigger sides. However last year Japan beat Wales at home and this year they have beaten Samoa, Canada, the USA and Italy.

“The standard has just gotten better and better over here in the time I have been here. When I first arrived the players coming in were guys I really hadn’t heard much of, there were a few internationals. But now it seems like every team is just signing international guys,” Wing said.

“As a result of that, the quality and standard of the games are getting a lot better as well. The national team is slowly climbing up the ladder and the quality is getting better. The only way is up for Japan rugby, leading up to the World Cup.”

The Japanese Super Rugby team would be expected to made up of some foreign rugby signings along with some of their Test stars.

Many Japanese domestic teams have signed Australian, New Zealand and South African players in recent years while a number of Japanese players have been signed by Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby teams.

Fumiaki Tanaka plays for the Highlanders in New Zealand and Shota Horie plays for the Rebels in Australia and Wing says that more exposure to Super Rugby would be extremely valuable for Japanese players.

“Those guys who have gone and played in New Zealand, or played in Australia, they become stars in their own right over here,” he said.

“I play with them in the Japan team and the confidence they come back with and the awareness they have, it rubs off on other players as well.”

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