14:30 2 March 2016
Rugby: Asia Rugby Championship games to have full test status
By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, March 2, Kyodo
Japan's four games in this year's Asia Rugby Championship will be full tests with world rankings at stake despite many of the Brave Blossoms squad being unavailable to play, Kyodo News has learned.
Multiple sources at Asia Rugby -- the governing body for the sport in the region -- confirmed Wednesday that the home-and-away games against South Korea and Hong Kong will have full test-match status, despite objections from the Japan Rugby Football Union.
Nineteen of the Brave Blossoms squad that won three games at last year's Rugby World Cup are currently involved in Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership in England. And with a further 19 Japan-eligible players involved with the Sunwolves, unconfirmed reports have suggested Japan's team at the ARC will be made up of students, with a handful of internationals and Top League players adding their experience.
Last week, the JRFU announced the Junior Japan squad that Ryuji Nakatake will take to Fiji to play in the upcoming World Rugby Pacific Rugby Challenge would contain just five players not at university or high school.
It is understood the JRFU wanted its ARC team to be known as a Japan XV just as Argentina recently fielded such a side in the Americas Rugby Championship.
However, Kyodo News has learned that World Rugby ruled the American tournament was not a regional association championship run by Sudamerica Rugby, but instead a "high performance tournament."
As such "the team entered by Japan in the ARC will be known and referred to as Japan."
Junior Japan takes on Samoa A, Tonga A and the Fiji Warriors from March 8-21, while Japan's involvement in the ARC is slated to run from April 30 to May 28, the final day of the Aviva Premiership season and the same day as the Sunwolves' last game before Super Rugby takes a one-month break.
With new head coach Jamie Joseph not taking over the Brave Blossoms until August, the JRFU have still not named an interim coach for the ARC or the June tests, which include two games against Scotland in Japan on June 18 and 25 and, according to reports from Canada, a match against the Canucks in Vancouver on June 11.