JRFU hopes to be key to more unified rugby world

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Japan is hoping to use its influence as a World Cup host and quarterfinalist to help rugby finally live up to the tournament theme song “A World in Union,” Japan Rugby Football Union Chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi said Wednesday evening.

The recent re-election of Englishman Sir Bill Beaumont over Argentine Gus Pichot for the post of chairman of World Rugby has seen the sport once again divided with the old guard in Europe supporting Beaumont and the Southern Hemisphere, in the main, pledging allegiance to Pichot.

Speaking to Kyodo News, Iwabuchi said the union would “not publicly announce who they voted for,” though the general consensus is they pledged their support for Beaumont, in marked contrast to Asia Rugby who publicly backed Pichot.

“What we are concerned about with rugby in general is the big divide between North and South,” the 44-year-old former flyhalf said. “As a Rugby World Cup host and quarterfinalist we feel that is not good for the sport and we feel we have a role to play” to rectify it.

Japan’s geographical position, as Iwabuchi pointed out, puts it in a unique position.

“Obviously we are a Northern Hemisphere country but time-zone wise it’s more logical for us (to steer towards) Southern Hemisphere tournaments. But that’s based on the assumption that the (rugby) world is split into two,” he said.

(File photo shows Japan Rugby Football Union president Shigetaka Mori (L) shaking hands with chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi.)

“At the moment the international calendar is based on two big tournaments, the Six Nations (in the north) and the Rugby Championship (in the south). But we are having a lot of discussion about a global competition. If we can get a global calendar or have the world split into four or five strong regions, things could be different. And we need to lead the world,” in bringing about that change.

When asked about the apparent split with Asia Rugby, Iwabuchi said Japan had only been able to host last year’s World Cup with the support of Asia and admitted the two unions needed to work together.

“We (the JRFU) have a role that we need to play and we talked during the World Cup about the need to work together.”

The 2019 World Cup was deemed a remarkable success and Iwabuchi admitted the coronavirus pandemic could not have come at a worse time.

“I am concerned about the loss of momentum and the JRFU has a role to play to get that momentum back when everything is OK and settled,” he said. “We need rugby back from (both) a rugby and financial point of view.”

The JRFU is set to lose between 1 billion and 2 billion yen from the postponement of the summer test matches against Wales and England, and the cancellation of this year’s Top League, which means there will have been just six rounds of domestic action in two calendar years by the time next year’s competition starts on Jan. 16.

“Having test matches against great rugby nations is the best way to get that momentum going again, and we are talking…

Read More: JRFU hopes to be key to more unified rugby world 2020-05-21 08:23:35

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