Japan flanker Ben Gunter has called for the Brave Blossoms to be included in the Rugby Championship after their admirable performance against Australia.
Australia claimed a 32-23 win against Japan in Oita on Saturday, in just the latest example that the Japanese are capable of competing with the best teams in the world.
Japan have claimed wins against South Africa, Ireland and Scotland since 2015, and of course qualified for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals when they hosted the tournament two years ago.
Japanese international Gunter, who qualified for his adopted country through residency after being raised in Australia, was speaking to Australian national news agency AAP and argued that Japan should be included in the Rugby Championship.
Ben Gunter on why Japan should be in the Rugby Championship.
“We are taking it to tier-one teams. We don’t look at them as though they’re going to smash us. We look at them as like we can beat these teams week in, week out,” Gunter said.
“The other thing is, too, we play very exciting rugby. We like to keep the ball in play and I think that’s what fans want to see. They want to see the ball in play, non-structured rugby, offloads, the kicking game.
“So 100 per cent Japan can easily compete with these teams at that level so they should be invited to those championship games and stuff. If you ask anybody, mate, everyone’s keen to see the Japanese style of rugby.”
— Japan Rugby (@JRFURugby) October 23, 2021
Japanese involvement likely just a matter of time.
After Japan’s impressive performances in 2019, adding them to the Rugby Championship became a very real possibility, similarly to Argentina’s inclusion in 2012 after coming third at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Japan didn’t play at all in 2020 due to the pandemic, but they have impressed in their three test matches this year despite failing to win so far, with promising performances against the British and Irish Lions, Ireland and Australia.
Their ability to compete with the world’s best teams has strengthened their argument for inclusion in the Rugby Championship, along with the potential massive TV audiences Japanese viewers could bring to the tournament.
While Japan’s inclusion is looking more and more likely, Fiji could also join the Rugby Championship in the coming years off the back of their recents wins against the likes of France.