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Japan touted for Six Nations inclusion

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It began as a competition between countries in the British Isles before the inclusion of France in 1910 and Italy in 2000

JAPAN coach Jamie Joseph with his players after a World Cup match. There are whispers Japan could join the Six Nations tournament. Picture: Andrew Cornaga www.Photosport.nz

JAPAN could receive a shock invitation to join the Six Nations, following their success as hosts of the Rugby World Cup.

The idea has been floated in private after it emerged that the Rugby Championship – the Southern Hemisphere equivalent – were dithering about including the fast emerging Japanese and were proposing a delay of four or five years before sanctioning their involvement.

No formal discussions have taken place but World Rugby are aware that, given the growing popularity of rugby in Japan, key figures within the Six Nations organisation have expressed an interest in creating a tournament that stretches to the Far East.

It has never before been thought possible that the Six Nations could move beyond Europe. It began as a competition between countries in the British Isles before the inclusion of France in 1910 and Italy in 2000. Recently, there has been talk of widening the competition to Georgia or Russia.

There is a great desire within the sport to capitalise on Japan’s World Cup achievement. England are undertaking a two-match tour there next summer, with games planned in Kobe and Oita, and Wales are also planning to return.

The months in which the Six Nations are played, mainly February and March, are benign in Japan, well away from typhoon season, and at the end of winter coming into spring.

Even if the trip was daunting for travelling fans, it would be expected that stadiums would sell out with locals excited by the prospect of competitive matches. Japan’s exciting style of rugby would be of great interest to broadcasters, too.

World Rugby are aware of the idea and have not opposed it – although any suggestion of taking the Six Nations beyond Europe is bound to find opposition from traditionalists. Europe’s leagues would also try to resist a further invasion of their schedule.

The Rugby Championship would be Japan’s natural home – and no doubt its preferred destination, given the additional popularity of the All Blacks there. South Africa will also have a growing following, having won Japan’s World Cup. Yet a global Six Nations remains an intriguing proposition, one that would appeal to sponsors.

Daily Mail