Media Briefing regarding Japan Men’s National Team 2020 Autumn International Season

The Japan Rugby Football Union (President: Shigetaka Mori, Minato-ku in Tokyo) has announced its decision that there will be no international matches and associated activities for the Japan national team in the forthcoming 2020 Autumn international season. Given the fact that the players could not commence their training at the time originally planned due to the spread of COVID-19, the decision has been made as a result of careful evaluation of the current situation, which does not allow us to make at least minimum preparation from the player’s welfare point of view.

■ JRFU Chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi’s comments:

While Japan rugby has been forced to cancel or suspend many events and activities due to the spread of COVID-19, the Head Coach, Jamie Joseph and we had been discussing about the Japan national team’s activities many times over the past months. As the scheduled June-July home international tests had to be canceled in the course of such discussion, we have been working with his management team closely and looking for various potential options to avoid further cancellation of autumn fixtures and make a positive progress.

To be fit as a team to play test matches with the world’s top nations, many preparation plans including individual players’ training menus as well as the possibilities of having domestic and overseas training camps were considered to the last minute. However, it would be difficult to create an environment which we expected and secure the minimum level of preparation under the current situation. As the result, we had to come to the decision to abandon our plans for the national team’s autumn activities.

The Japan Rugby Football Union is fully aware that fans must have been looking forward to Japan’s any newly scheduled matches and even though they will not be assembled to play any matches, we will continue to endeavor to create and offer an alternative opportunity to make the appearance of the team as well as Japan rugby in front of them at least in some form.

■ Head Coach Jamie Joseph’s comments:

I am very disappointed that we were not able to play any rugby this year. And I feel for the players first and foremost. Players have been working very hard behind the scenes to ensure that they are in the right condition to start their training camps. I’m disappointed for the fans as well, because after last year’s World Cup efforts and results it would have been great just to continue our way along the rugby path and playing the matches in July.

The Autumn Nations Cup 2020 would have helped Japan develop and helped giving our players the much-needed experience at international level. However, we are looking at the positives of the absence of rugby this year. It allows our players to have a much-needed break. We’ve had players carrying a lot of injuries, so it’s given our players a bit of a breather. If you put the players welfare and safety as the key priority around decision, I think the right decision has been made.

COVID-19 has created a lot of different challenges for international sports, not just rugby, but we still got plenty of time to prepare our side for the next World Cup. I’m just hoping that it starts getting better in Japan, and we can start looking forward to next season starting from the Top League.