Asian side to join Super Rugby ranks

The new Super Rugby franchise to be included in an expanded competition in 2016 will hail from either Japan or Singapore.

In May, Sanzar confirmed that the tournament would expand from 15 teams to 18 in 2016. The structure of the competition will be very different, and there will be four conferences instead of three.

At that point, it was confirmed that Argentina had been awarded a franchise, and that the Southern Kings would be making a return to the Super Rugby fold. The identity of the 18th and final franchise was unknown, and it was suggested that South Africa would bid for a seventh franchise, and that the USA were also interested in hosting a Super Rugby team.

On Wednesday, Sanzar released a statement confirming that the 18th franchise will come from Asia. Singapore and Japan will go head to head for the coveted franchise licence next month, with the final decision set to be announced by October.

'Asia is a region that has been the focus of considerable investment by the International Rugby Board in recent years and is a strategically sound location for the evolution of Super Rugby,' said Sanzar CEO Greg Peters. 'We were happy with the number of responses received, however the two stand-out expressions of interest that were most attractive to the Sanzar unions were received from Japan and Singapore.

'Each bid has the support of the respective national unions and includes other interested parties who will provide commercial and business support required for a venture of this nature.'

The two bidders now have until mid-August to submit formal tender documents, outlining why they are best-positioned to join Super Rugby when it expands to 18 teams in 2016.

The bids will be assessed against the key criteria of commercial value, infrastructure, geographic location, rugby readiness and ongoing sustainability.

Photo: Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli