Rugby

Sunwolves aiming to compete in Australia in July

KYODO

Japan's Sunwolves are aiming to participate in a tournament between Super Rugby teams in Australia that is scheduled to start in July.

The Sunwolves' final season in Super Rugby was cut short in March, when the new coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of the competition involving teams from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. But the newly planned tournament has given them new life, provided they are allowed to enter Australia.

The Sunwolves, who were in Australia when the season was canceled, temporarily disbanded and the players were sent home. At that point, any further play this year seemed unlikely, but the success of Australia and New Zealand in controlling the health crisis has paved the way for the resumption of competitive rugby in both countries.

In addition to the Sunwolves, the Australian competition would likely include the Perth-based Western Force, a former Super Rugby outfit. New Zealand is also planning a domestic competition involving its Super Rugby teams.

Although the Sunwolves' participation would give Japan a much-needed morale boost, the availability of players may be an issue, as team members comprise seven different nationalities. Australian entry restrictions, including quarantine rules, may limit who can take part and how much practice time is available to a team from outside of the country.

And because the expedition will last for more than two months with no home games in Japan, the financial burden is likely to be heavy.

Sunwolves CEO Yuji Watase said the squad will probably be cut from around 40 members to 30.

Due to the cancellation of the Top League season and Japan's summer tests, a Japanese team playing anywhere would be big news.

"Fans and players feel the same about this," Watase said. "We have to do this if there is a chance."

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