JAPAN RUGBY- World Rugby has decided to certify Japan as a Tier 1 country, making it the first Asian nation to rise to the sport’s top level.
The decision comes days after Sir Bill Beaumont was re-elected World Rugby’s chairman.
According to International media reports, Beaumont was in a tight race to keep his job against Agustin Pichot, and according to sources, he won Japan Rugby Football Union’s backing with a promise to promote the national team to Tier 1.
The promotion to Tier 1 marks an important turning point in Japan’s rugby history.
Tier 1 status will mean more games against other Tier 1 teams and more weight when rugby unions vote on World Rugby matters.
It could also lead to Japan receiving more World Rugby funds when budget money is distributed.
World Rugby held its election for chairman in late April, when the rugby unions of each council member voted either to retain – Sir Bill Beaumont or replace him with his Argentine deputy- Agustin Pichot.
The outcome was in doubt, and Beaumont needed to sway some of the uncommitted unions to his side. In the end, he managed a five-vote victory, 28 votes to 23.
Tiers are a class system unique to rugby, with the top tier long consisting of 10 countries from Europe and the Southern Hemisphere.
But the system is breaking down. Japan, for instance, has been in Tier 2 despite a combined record of 7 to 2 in the last two Rugby World Cups. These results would put Japan in the middle of the Tier 1 pack.
In addition, Japan was a top-eight finisher at the 2019 World Cup, which the country hosted to great acclaim.
The new promotion could give the sport a boost in Japan. Tier 1 status could further rekindle interest in the game among young athletes and fans.
The 10 current Tier 1 countries are: Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland and Wales.
Source: Ultimate Rugby/ Nikkei Asia