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Japan’s Super Rubgy participation remains uncertain

Kyodo

Japan’s participation in next season’s Super Rugby competition is still by no means certain, Kyodo News learned Wednesday.

This past weekend, Japan Rugby Football Union General Secretary Noriyuki Sakamoto dismissed concerns that Japan could raise a team for the 2016 competition when he told reporters “We have enough (players to play a game).”

However, the news came out of the blue to most following developments and led SANZAR — the organization that runs the tournament — to ask the JRFU for clarification as to who exactly had put pen to paper.

Despite official silence from both the Japan Super Rugby Association, which only said, “The contract was signed with the JRFU so we cannot comment,” and the JRFU, Kyodo has learned a list of 29 players and the name of a potential head coach was sent to SANZAR by midnight Monday, the deadline for negotiations.

A spokesman from SANZAR told Kyodo on Wednesday that no comment will be made on “what’s been received from the JRFU until we’ve had a chance to go through it thoroughly.”

A well-placed source told Kyodo, however, a number of players on the list were not among those generally associated with the national team, while it is believed the first five choices for the head coach role have all turned down the job.

Japan’s acceptance into the world’s premier regional rugby tournament was based on it fielding a 35-man squad consisting primarily of established Japanese internationals and a handful of “marquee” overseas players.

If the players on the list are mainly from the national side then that would almost certainly satisfy SANZAR’s demand. However, if there are a significant number of university players, then SANZAR could say Japan has reneged on the deal.

Adding a further complication to the deal is news that some of the company sides have apparently asked that the number of games played by their employees in a year be limited and that Top League games be given priority to Super Rugby matches.