Sunwolves confirm time in Super Rugby is over


With rugby preparing to return from the coronavirus shutdown, Japan's Sunwolves had been in talks to join Australia's four Super Rugby teams and Perth-based Western Force in a 12-week tournament slated for July-September.

However, Rugby Australia (RA) said earlier on Monday that travel curbs and border controls had made it too hard to involve the team.

Sunwolves CEO Yuji Watase said it had been an honour to play in Super Rugby.

Force agree to be part of Super Rugby AU, door not yet shut on Sunwolves

WA's professional rugby franchise had been part of discussions with Rugby Australia throughout planning for the competition but earlier this month said they had yet to receive a "formal invitation" to be part of that competition.

The official tick of approval came on Wednesday from Force owner Andrew Forrest and is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to working towards a rugby resumption.

With the Force involved, Super Rugby AU will certainly involve at least five teams in a 12-week tournament kicking off on July 3 and running until September 19.

Crusaders match moved from Tokyo due to Coronavirus

The Sunwolves chief executive Yuji Watase told reporters in Japan that the Crusaders' match won't be held in the country.

"We are trying to relocate the Brumbies' match on 8th March in Osaka and the Crusaders' match on March 14th in Tokyo to overseas," Watase said.

"In the beginning, we tried to hold these matches in Japan behind closed doors, but when we thought about what is the best solution, we came to the conclusion to hold these games abroad."

SANZAAR yesterday announced next Friday's match between the Sunwolves and Brumbies in Osaka has also been postponed.

Tim Horan's son signs up with Sunwolves

Australian midfielder Alex Horan, son of two-time World Cup-winning Wallabies midfielder Tim Horan, was announced as one of four new additions to the Sunwolves’ training squad on Sunday night, just four weeks’ out from the club’s season-opener against the Melbourne Rebels on February 1.

The acquisition of Horan comes as a left-field selection given the youngster has yet to play at Super Rugby level, although he has featured in the National Rugby Championship for the Canberra Vikings and Brisbane City.

Highlanders hit top gear in Tokyo

Led by an outstanding performance from lock Jackson Hemopo, the visitors pack laid the platform for their side to run in eight tries in Tokyo on Friday night (NZ time).

The Highlanders forwards obliterated the Sunwolves' scrum at will, even after they had replaced their entire front row, and dominated the contact area to force errors before moving back into play-off contention in fifth place overall on 23 points.

The result also lifted the Highlanders past the Blues into third in the New Zealand conference.

Japan rugby captain slams Sanzaar over Sunwolves dumping

The decision by organiser SANZAAR to revert to a purely southern hemisphere Super Rugby competition was a major blow for Japan and those who champion the growth of the game, as the nation prepares to showcase its development as hosts of the World Cup.

Leitch, who hasn't featured for the Sunwolves this season due to commitments with the national team, believes this is a mistake and that exposure to higher levels of competition is the only way to grow the sport he loves.

"It feels like the strong teams play within themselves and won't let anyone else in," Leitch said.

Surgery to prevent McMahon playing for Sunwolves revealed last year McMahon had signed a one-year deal with the Sunwolves for 2019, which all-but ruled out the 26-Test backrower playing for the Wallabies at the World Cup.

McMahon later confirmed he'd signed to play for the Sunwolves but the deal was dependent on a medical.

The 24-year-old picked up a lisfranc injury in his foot playing for Suntory in the Top League competition in Japan, and though he returned late in the season and played in a losing Grand Final side, McMahon's injury continued to be an issue.

McMahon signs with Sunwolves, World Cup hopes fade

The 24-year-old has not played for the Wallabies since their heavy loss at the hands of Scotland on last year's Spring Tour, after which he joined Suntory in the Top League.

With Japan hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup, however, the surrounding Top League seasons were drastically shortened - leaving a window for Australian players to return home for a Super Rugby season and a potential World Cup tilt.

The Reds, Rebels and even the Force approached McMahon but can reveal he turned his back on all offers to sign for the Sunwolves for the 2019 Super Rugby season.

Brumbies spring round one surprises

Ben Alexander and Allan Alaalatoa will team up in the front row for their match against the Sunwolves, with Sio nursing a 'minor niggle' back in Canberra.

Richie Arnold has usurped his twin Rory for his debut Brumbies start, with the latter on the pine in Tokyo.

Canberra Vikings captain and 2016 Olympian Tom Cusack will have the first chance to take the seven jersey as David Pocock recovers from knee surgery, with Lochie McCaffrey on the bench.

Cusack will combine with Rob Valetini and breakout 2017 star Isi Naisarani in the backrow in the opening clash.

Michael Leitch to play for the Sunwolves in 2019

The 28-year-old Japan international had originally turned down the opportunity to lead the new franchise in their debut Super Rugby season last year, instead believing the best way to better his game was to stick with the Chiefs - who he signed for in 2013 but never got to play for because of injury, before linking back up with them two years later.