The Sunwolves’ time as a Super Rugby team has come to an end after they were unable to join the Australian version of the competition this year.
While Rugby Australia had been hoping to include the Japanese side in Super Rugby AU to make it a six-team comp, quarantine regulations and travel restrictions made necessary by the spread of COVID-19 scuppered any chances of that.
“There are significant challenges facing the Sunwolves’ participation in this modified competition model which Rugby Australia, SANZAAR and the Sunwolves have been attempting to work through. However, the reality is, given the timeframe available the team’s preparation for the competition would be severely compromised,” Rugby AU interim CEO Rob Clarke said.
“All parties agree that despite our collective efforts and desire to see the Sunwolves take part in the competition, under the current circumstances their participation will not be feasible. While unfortunate, this decision delivers the certainty that all stakeholders require at this point in time.
“We all agree that this is not the way we wanted or believed that the 2020 Super Rugby season would play out when it kicked off back in late January, the impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and unforeseen.
“On behalf of Rugby Australia, our SANZAAR partners and the Rugby community I pass on our thanks to the Sunwolves and we look forward to continuing to build on the links between Australia and Japan on and off the Rugby field.”
The decision means we have seen the last of the Sunwolves, as 2020 was already set to be the side’s final year in Super Rugby.
“It is extremely unfortunate and disappointing but the reality is that the Sunwolves’ time in Super Rugby has come to an end for now,” Japan Super Rugby Association CEO Yuji Watase said.
“It has been an honour and a privilege for us to be part of the toughest rugby competition in the world.
“We wish to thank all our wonderful fans, sponsors, partners, players and staff for all they have done for rugby in Japan and the Sunwolves organisation.”
With rumours from Argentina suggesting the Jaguares are about to be scrapped too, there is the possibility of both 2016 expansion sides leaving the competition in the same year.
With the Sunwolves out of the reckoning, it leaves Super Rugby AU confirmed as a five-team competition – the Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies, Rebels and Force – which Rugby Australia hopes to begin on July 3 and run through to September.