A press release from the Asia Pacific Dragons suggests that Japan will be awarded the 18th Super Rugby franchise.
The Dragons, backed by French-born Kiwi millionaire Eric Series, have been at the forefront of the Singapore bid, but it seems that Sanzar has gone elsewhere in its search for an 18th Super Rugby franchise.
The Japanese franchise will boast a competitive team made up of players from the current Japan Top League. With the funding and support of their national union, the Japanese franchise would be able to leverage the current structures in order to attract foreign players.
After taking all these factors into account, it seems that Sanzar has made its decision. Eric Series has released a statement on behalf of the Dragons through Carinat Sports Marketing, conceding defeat in the race to become Asia's first Super Rugby franchise.
'When Sanzar announced its plans to expand the format of the competition and that the spot for the 18th team was between two Asian Bids, that demonstrated that Sanzar recognised Asia as a major growth market for the game and we commend them for their vision.
'Clearly Japan is a mature, established rugby market, whilst Singapore is new to the global rugby scene. Consequently, we understand that for an established organisation such as Sanzar and it's three unions, that there may have been a reluctance to break with tradition.
'We can understand that this is good for Japan as a country, especially with the World Cup in 2019, but also that it ushers in a very busy period and a huge responsibility for the JPRFU as the first Asian team in Super Rugby.'
Saru was believed to support the Singapore bid, with concerns on the travel requirements should a Japanese side be involved. It seems that Sanzar has come to an agreement to host some matches in Singapore, so as to cut down on travel time.
'The news that the Japan team will play matches in Singapore is also welcomed, as knowing that they will need to invest in rugby in Singapore and South-East Asia in order to achieve that, is a consequence we warmly endorse, as this was a key component of our proposal.'
'We would like to thank Sanzar for giving us the opportunity to present the Asia Pacific Dragons proposal, but understand that perhaps the competition is not ready for a fully privately-owned club.'