Japan will host a new franchise in the Super Rugby competition, the southern hemisphere’s premier club rugby tournament, from 2016.
Sanzar, the body that organises the competition, selected Japan as its ‘preferred bidder’ ahead of Singapore.
The Japanese team will be one of three new franchises in an expanded 18-team tournament.
Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters called the decision “a significant step in the evolution of Super Rugby”.
He added: “Compelling proposals were put forth by Japan and Singapore.
“We thank both parties for their passion in sharing our vision to expand the competition to new fans, territories and commercial markets.”
Current Super Rugby teams
|Australia||Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels, New South Wales Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Western Force|
|New Zealand||Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes|
|South Africa||Bulls, Central Cheetahs, Lions, Sharks, Stormers|
Japan will now work closely with Sanzar to finalise arrangements for its entry, including the location of the franchise.
The country has a strong rugby history, having qualified for every World Cup, and will host the tournament in 2019.
The new format of the competition will feature two South African conferences, one of which will include the Japanese team. Teams play other sides in their own conference home and away as well as some sides from other conferences.
The format change coincides with the renegotiation of the tournament’s broadcasting agreements.