• Kyodo

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The Japan Rugby Football Union confirmed Friday that any player with a Japanese passport who is not eligible to play for the Brave Blossoms will continue to be regarded as non-Japanese as far as the Top League is concerned.

In responding to a request by three foreign-born Japanese citizens that the rule, which was introduced in 2016, be overturned as it constitutes “clear discrimination,” Top League Chairman Osamu Ota said “the union needed to protect players born in Japan” and that the purpose of the rule was “to help develop the Japan national team.”

Prior to August 2016, anyone with a Japanese passport was regarded as a local player even if they had played for another country. As such they were not part of the quota that limits clubs to fielding, at any one time, two players capped by another international side, three foreign-born players who are eligible to play for Japan and one Asian passport holder.

The rule change, however, means former All Black Isaac Ross, ex-New Zealand sevens player Colin Bourke and Brackin Karauria-Henry are not treated as Japanese despite holding citizenship.

“I am really disappointed that the JRFU will not change the ruling for this upcoming Top League season,” said Karauria-Henry, who along with Bourke is still being considered for Japan’s sevens team at the Tokyo Olympics due to a loophole in the Olympic Charter that allows competitors who have represented one country to switch to another if they hold a passport for the new country and do not represent their former country for three years.

As the former Australia sevens player told Kyodo News, “I’m also confused that I’m able to represent Japan at the Olympics but still not a Japanese player in the Top League.”

Ota said the union would review the regulations ahead of the start of the launch of the new professional league that is scheduled to kick off by early 2022.

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