Japan should have been riding a wave of momentum after hosting a successful 2019 Rugby World Cup but the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered efforts to build on their success.

The Brave Blossoms beat Ireland and Scotland to reach the quarterfinals for the first time four years ago, sparking rugby-mania across a nation usually infatuated with baseball.

But the national team did not play a single game for 20 months afterwards as the government imposed strict pandemic travel restrictions, and the domestic league canceled its 2020 season after only six rounds.