Sunwolves' expulsion upsets Japan skipper, Latest Others News - The New Paper

Sunwolves' expulsion upsets Japan skipper

Japan rugby captain Michael Leitch has accused some top-tier nations of wanting to keep the high-level game to themselves after the Sunwolves, Japan's representatives in Super Rugby, were told they would be cut from the elite competition after the 2020 season.

The decision by organiser Sanzaar to revert to a purely southern-hemisphere competition was a major blow for Japan and those who champion the growth of the game, as the nation prepares to showcase its development as World Cup hosts this year.

Leitch, who hasn't featured for the Sunwolves this season due to commitments with the national team, believes this is a mistake and that exposure to higher levels of competition is the only way to grow the sport.

"It feels like the strong teams play within themselves and won't let anyone else in," Leitch, 30, said in an interview with Reuters yesterday.

"The Japanese team, we need exposure and we need to be playing top, Tier One nations on a regular basis.

"I am very disappointed. The reason the national team now is making great steps towards beating quality sides is because we have got that exposure to a higher level."


Japan have made strides in recent years, following their famous victory over South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. They have recorded comfortable victories over Italy and Tonga and drawn with France in Paris.

The Sunwolves joined Super Rugby in 2016 as World Rugby looked to ramp up enthusiasm for the Rugby World Cup, which begins in Tokyo on Sept 20.

World Rugby has insisted that hosting the first World Cup outside the sport's traditional heartland will boost the sport in Asia. But the decision to exclude the Sunwolves from Super Rugby appears to contradict that.

There has been talk of a lucrative, competitive league being set up in Japan following the World Cup, but the Japanese Rugby Football Union has yet to confirm any changes to the sport's structure. - REUTERS