Boost for Japanese rugby
Japan could host a Bledisloe Cup match as well as have a side in the Super 14s, according to ARU chief John O'Neil
Last Updated: 05/03/08 11:47am
Japan have been given a boost in their bid to develop rugby union with news they could host a Bledisloe Cup match as well as have a side in the Super 14s.
There is talk of expanding the Super Rugby format again in the next few years and Australia Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill believes that the door could be open for a Japanese franchise.
Japan has become an increasingly popular destination for players, with former Wallabies fly-half Stephen Larkham among those heading to the land of the rising sun.
And O'Neill admitted: "The Super 14 has been expanded (from 12) and could be expanded again in the next few years.
"We could well base a team in Tokyo, possibly as a joint venture because it would be very important to be competitive.
"It would perhaps be half Japanese, with Japan's best players, and the other half foreign, predominately Australian."
O'Neill is also holding talks with the Japanese and the All Blacks about hosting a Bledisloe Cup game there from 2009.
The All Blacks and Australia are already set to take their personal series abroad to Hong Kong in November - with Tokyo a possible venue the following year.
"We had our first preliminary discussions today. They were very positive," O'Neill told Reuters.
"We are taking the jewel in the crown into an incredibly valuable market. It would not be an exhibition match. It would be a full-blooded test with the cup on the line.
"We are looking to play a Bledisloe Cup game in Tokyo about October 31 next year or early November.
"But it's not just lip-service. We are very serious about growing rugby in Asia.
"Of course the reasons are not entirely altruistic. We have had a very successful 12 years of the professional era but it's obvious we have to grow in a larger consumer area."