For many years the goal of the IRB has been to grow the game but the progress has been slow. That changed last year when suddenly, conversations began about Japan joining either the Six Nations or the Rugby Championship.
This was based primarily on the outstanding performance of the Japanese national rugby team at the World Cup. But it goes deeper. News emerged last year – before the World Cup – that SANZAAR had decided to cut the Japanese Sunwolves from Super Rugby after this year. That decision has lately come under discussion and it may still be reversed – and should be if Japan is to be added to the Rugby Championship.
However, the successful Rugby World Cup has also had other important impacts in Japan. Firstly, it increased public interest in the sport and, secondly, it availed local clubs of the opportunity to approach and sign international rugby stars to represent them in Japanese leagues.
Indeed, even more national players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are now roaming the fields of Japan after switching Super Rugby for the Japan Top League. And it all comes back to the money. As Rugby365 notes:
“By comparison to their Japanese rivals, Super Rugby clubs are far less empowered financially, which left them struggling to keep hold of their key players in the face of lucrative contract offers thrown their way by cashed-up, corporate-owned Top League clubs.”
This has increased public interest even more – both locally in Japan as well as internationally. Indeed, RugbyPass has secured the rights to live stream games across the world. Unfortunately, our monopoly sports broadcaster has seen to it that RugbyPass is inaccessible in South Africa.
But there is a solution: a simple VPN application on your computer, tablet or TV will allow you to fool RugbyPass into thinking you’re watching from elsewhere in the world – you can pick a country. So, all you need to do it load a VPN and install the app of your choice from those provided by RugbyPass.
But, on the plus side, you can watch the highlights of last weekend’s matches on the RugbyPass website. And yes, that is our very own Malcolm Marx plying his trade in the colours of Shining Arcs.