The Sunwolves’ time in Vodacom Super Rugby is over, after the franchise’s bid to compete in the proposed Australian domestic competition failed.
Rugby Australia and the Sunwolves announced on Monday the Tokyo-based team will not take part from next month in the Aussies’ five-team modified Super Rugby reboot competition due to logistics and stringent coronavirus border restrictions.
If the Sunwolves were able to enter Australia, for example, they would be required to complete a 14-day quarantine period and find a permanent base for the 12-week competition.
‘We are announcing that we have been told by the Australian rugby association officially that we are unable to participate in the competition,’ Sunwolves CEO Yuji Watase said in a statement.
‘It is extremely unfortunate and disappointing but the reality is that the Sunwolves’ time in Super Rugby has come to an end for now,’ said Watase.
‘It has been an honour and privilege for us to be part of the toughest rugby competition in the world. We wish to thank all our wonderful fans, sponsors, partners, players and staff for all they have done for rugby in Japan and the Sunwolves organisation.’
Super Rugby chiefs announced in March the Japanese team would be cut at the end of the 2020 competition after five seasons in the tournament. Sanzaar has not officially abandoned the 2020 season, but Japan Rugby Football Union chairman Shigetaka Moris said the Sunwolves would not be playing again this year.
‘The Sunwolves, loved by many fans, have reached the end of the 2020 season,’ Mori said in a statement, thanking the fans, players and staff for their dedication.
‘The five-year trajectory of Sunwolves will never disappear. When the Japan national team’s success in the Rugby World Cup last year was talked about, it proved to many fans that the existence of the Sunwolves was a key factor behind this.
‘Going forward, we will continue to make use of the experience gained by the existence of the Sunwolves to work with fans and other stakeholders to further develop Japan Rugby.’
The decision ends a nearly five-year run in Super Rugby for the Sunwolves, who won only nine games in that time and were on the receiving end of some lopsided results.
The Sunwolves’ exit comes despite the success of last year’s World Cup in Japan and the lure of Japan’s Top League, which has attracted a series of marquee players from overseas.
Rugby Australia’s interim chief executive, Rob Clarke, said officials had been trying to work through ‘significant challenges’ to field a Sunwolves team in Australia.
‘However, the reality is, given the time frame available, the team’s preparation for the competition would be severely compromised,’ he said in a statement.
‘All parties agree that despite our collective efforts and desire to see the Sunwolves take part in the competition, under the current circumstances their participation will not be feasible.’
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