Japan must focus on improving the Sunwolves’ performances in Super Rugby before they can think of participating in the Rugby Championship.
That was the word from New Zealand Rugby’s chief executive Steve Tew who conceded that Japan needed to play against tough opposition at Test level regularly, but feels they are not yet ready to face New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina in the Rugby Championship.
This was in response to World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot’s call for teams like Japan and Georgia to join the Rugby Championship and Six Nations respectively.
Pichot’s comments were made after the Sunwolves finished their 2017 Super Rugby campaign with a shock 48-21 win over the the Blues in Tokyo.
However, that was just their second win from 15 matches in 2017 and Tew said making them more competitive is more important than adding Japan to the Rugby Championship.
“At some stage, Japan being considered for the Rugby Championship would be on the table but, clearly, that has to come at a time when they were able to compete,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
“Right now SANZAAR is focused on ensuring the Sunwolves can compete in Super Rugby. That’s the first step, and they’ve clearly got a way to go.”
That win over the Blues meant the Sunwolves moved above the Melbourne Rebels to finish in second last place on Super Rugby’s overall table in 2017, but they have won just three out of 30 matches since joining the competition last year.