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New Japanese League to be Set Up

A new Japanese rugby league is in the pipeline which could cause major problems for the Southern Hemisphere’s power countries

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(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Japanese Rugby Football Union vice-president Katsuyuki Kiyomiya has confirmed that plans are being put in place for a new domestic league in the country to continue the rise of the sport in Japan.

Kiyomiya spoke to Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei and explained how the national team’s rise in the sport, which has seen them reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup, has aided them with their decision to put together a new league come 2021. 

“This World Cup is a big event Japanese rugby has not experienced before and we are tested on how we take the excitement and enthusiasm created by this event to the next level. Now is the chance to start a professional league, which enables Japanese spectators to see star players in the World Cup 2019 playing at first hand, right in front of their eyes,” he said. 

The vice-president confirmed that they would hold a press conference on November the 18th where they will discuss the plans and ambitions for the new competition which they say will run from August to January each year. 

This schedule could cause tensions between the clubs in Japan and the Southern Hemisphere nations as their players could sign on for the season in Japan while also playing Super Rugby but that would mean that they could miss their international games. 

Kiyomiya believes that this new league would bring in annual revenues of around 50 billions yen which would allow the league and its teams to compete with the financial power of European leagues such as the Top 14 in France

The fear for the likes of countries like New Zealand would be that their players may use their contracts, which allow for a move to Japan before returning home, to go play in the new league while missing the international season. 

Worries will be there for the likes of Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick signing new contracts this year will provide for a sabbatical in Japan which could cause major problems.

The new league would replace the current Top League which contains 16 teams with the proposed new league reducing to 12 teams. 

All of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have already faced struggles when it comes to keeping their star names and this would add further complications to that big problem. 

We will have to wait and see what happens over the next couple of months but not only could we see countries finding it hard to get players to play internationally if the league goes ahead but for Super Rugby players it could lead to them becoming burned out as they try to play all year round between the two leagues. However, it would allow the Japanese players to continue to improve as they mix among the world’s best.

6 Nations

British & Irish Lions issue Tour Update

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The British & Irish Lions and SA Rugby have confirmed they are aligned on delivering the Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa in the scheduled playing window.

The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today (Tuesday).

“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of The British & Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment.

“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

Alexander said the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.

Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.

“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”

Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.

“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Alexander. “However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”

It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.

The Lions remind supporters that all packages purchased through Lions Rugby Travel are protected by the Covid-19 guarantee*. Supporters who have booked packages with official sub agents should contact them directly. For the latest guidance on travelling to South Africa please visit the UK Foreign Office website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/south-africa/

At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on COVID-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.

In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.

The British & Irish Lions Test match against Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup will continue as scheduled. However, a decision on crowd size will be made nearer the time of the event and in line with the latest UK Government guidance. For more information, including ticketing enquiries, please visit:
https://www.lionsrugby.com/1888-cup-faqs/

The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.

*For more information please visit www.lionstour.com

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Rugby

Former Ulster star, Peter Nelson signs for French Club

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Getty Images - AFPCHRISTOPHE SIMON

Canada international and former Ulster player, Peter Nelson has signed with French PRO D2 side, Stade Aurillacois Cantal Auvergne on a 3-year deal.

Nelson spent 8 seasons with Ulster making 64 PRO14 appearances. In June 2019 Nelson joined up with the Canadian national team qualifying through his Grandmother who was born in Vancouver.

Nelson was part of the Canadian World Cup Squad making 3 appearance in RWC 2019 in Japan against Italy, New Zealand and South Africa.

In 2020, he signed with MRL side, Seawolwes in the USA to compete in the Major League of Rugby championship but unfortunately COVID-19 prevented any involvement.

Comfortable playing across the back 3 or at 10 or 12 he’s an astute signing for the PRO D2 Club. Nelson makes the move from French 3rd Division team Bourg en Bresse where he was brought in as a medical joker in September 2020.

Aurrilac has a long association with Ulster with with former Ulster Legend, Jeremy Davidson coaching the side for several years. Andre Bester former, Ballymena & Belfast Harlequins coach also had a stint with the Cantal Based Club.

Aurillac have had several Ulster-born players on their roster over the years including former Ulster Prop, Paddy McAllister, former Ulster winger, Conor Gaston and Ulster Underage Representatives, Charlie Simpson & Tim Small.

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Rugby

Wales name side for Scotland

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Wales travel to Murrayfield on a six-day turnaround following their opening round success against Ireland.
Wales have named the same front-five that featured last weekend with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis forming the front-row.

Adam Beard continues to partner captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second row.

Aaron Wainwright comes into the back row to line up alongside Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau. Both Josh Navidi and Josh Macleod are unavailable due to injury, with the latter originally selected to earn his first cap at blindside flanker before being ruled out.

Gareth Davies comes into the starting XV to partner Dan Biggar.

Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin form a new-look midfield with Liam Williams returning to the side to line-up alongside Louis Rees-Zammit and Leigh Halfpenny.

“We were pleased to kick the tournament off with a victory last weekend and to be heading to Scotland with a win behind us.

“We continue to build and to move forward and it is great to do that from a position of winning.
“It is a quick six-day turnaround this week but we are looking forward to getting back out there.

“We have picked up a couple of injuries but we see it as more of an opportunity for those coming into the side.

“We have to feel extremely disappointed for Josh (Macleod) who we selected to start and to win his first cap only to be ruled out later that day through injury.”

Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones and Leon Brown provide the front-row cover for Wales with Will Rowlands and James Botham completing the forward contingent. Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy and Halaholo provide the back-line cover.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY SCOTLAND (SATURDAY FEBRUARY 13, KO 16.45)

1. Wyn Jones (31 Caps)

2. Ken Owens (78 Caps)

3. Tomas Francis (53 Caps)

4. Adam Beard (22 Caps)

5. Alun Wyn Jones (CAPT) (144 Caps)

6. Aaron Wainwright (27 Caps)

7. Justin Tipuric (81 Caps)

8. Taulupe Faletau (82 Caps)

9. Gareth Davies (58 Caps)

10. Dan Biggar (88 Caps)

11. Liam Williams (67 Caps)

12. Nick Tompkins (9 Caps)

13. Owen Watkin (26 Caps)

14. Louis Rees-Zammit (5 Caps)

15. Leigh Halfpenny (94 Caps)

Replacements:

16. Elliot Dee (33 Caps)

17. Rhodri Jones (18 Caps)

18. Leon Brown (13 Caps)

19. Will Rowlands (6 Caps)

20. James Botham (3 Caps)

21. Kieran Hardy (2 Caps)

22. Callum Sheedy (5 Caps)

23. Uilisi Halaholo (*Uncapped)

Players unavailable for selection:

Dan Lydiate (released), Josh Navidi, Josh Macleod, Tomos Williams, Johnny Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hallam Amos, Josh Adams.

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