Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle said Tuesday night she was looking to strengthen links with Japan not just for Rugby World Cup 2019 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but well beyond.
Speaking at an event organized by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan, the 47-year-old said, “I have quickly come to realize Japan is a very important strategic direction for Rugby Australia for the next three years and hopefully for a lot longer than that over the next 10 years.”
Castle said the Bledisloe Cup game against New Zealand in Yokohama in October (following games in Auckland and Sydney) was a great opportunity to promote Australian rugby 12 months ahead of Japan hosting Rugby World Cup 2019, “the pinnacle event” for the sport.
“And then very quickly we roll into the Olympics, where our girls’ team are the defending champions and our boys’ team (quarterfinalists in Rio) are very young and are on a very clear path to make sure they are pushing at the back end of that tournament,” she said. “So we are working very hard towards taking home two gold medals.”
Castle said Rugby Australia was keen to share ideas with the Japan Rugby Football Union to help it grow, as well as develop and raise the profile of the sport.
Part of that includes a training base in Japan for both the Wallabies and the two Australian sevens teams as they build toward 2019 and 2020, respectively. Depending on the location, it could also be used by Australian Super Rugby teams when they are in Japan to play the Sunwolves.
“The All Blacks are doing an enormous amount here and we want to make sure the Wallabies and (team sponsor) Qantas are doing those sorts of things too,” Castle said.
Castle’s first three months in the job have been overshadowed by the fallout from a now-deleted Twitter post by Wallabies and Waratahs back Israel Folau that read homosexuals would go to “Hell . . . unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
Castle said Folau’s future was still very uncertain and that a lot would depend on how much the former rugby league and Australian rules football star wants to represent the Wallabies at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
It has been reported that Folau has been offered a multimillion dollar deal by an English Premiership team, but Castle said she thought it was unlikely he would take it up, as the player’s wife, Maria, is set to remain in New Zealand to continue her netball career.
Castle also noted that the All Blacks could not have timed things better to get one up on their arch-rivals as New Zealand Rugby, in cooperation with its sponsor AIG, released a video the same day entitled “Diversity in Strength.”
Filmed in Osaka, the video features the All Blacks and Black Ferns standing side by side in jerseys that feature the rainbow colors of the LGBT flag.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.