Wallabies make rare trip as Japan seek to state claim for seat at rugby’s top table

theguardian.com -- Oct 21
The Brave Blossoms have an opportunity to audition for a place in the Rugby Championship when they host Australia for just the second time on Saturday

Remarkably, the Wallabies’ 63-30 win in Yokohama in 2017 was the only time the Australian side has played the Brave Blossoms in a Test on Japanese soil.

Even though Japan have played Test rugby since 1932, the Wallabies have only played them on five occasions, which is surprising given the geographic proximity between the two countries.

The Wallabies won two Tests in Australia in 1975 and beat the Brave Blossoms twice in World Cup pool games in 1987 and 2007. But curiously, far-flung nations such as Wales (nine), Italy (eight), Ireland (seven), Scotland (seven) and Argentina (six) have played more games against Japan than Australia.

The Wallabies’ lack of engagement with Japan is perhaps explained by the fact Australia is a leading power in world rugby, while Japan is regarded as a minnow, excluded from major international competitions such as the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship.

But if Australia, and the rest of the southern hemisphere rugby nations are to prosper in the long-term, Japan need to be brought into the Rugby Championship. Ever since their stunning 34-32 upset win against South Africa at the 2015 World Cup there has been talk of Japan joining the competition along with the Wallabies, All Blacks, Springboks and Argentina.

The commercial future for southern hemisphere rugby looks rather bleak, at least compared to the riches of Europe, but there is a potentially bright future for Asia-Pacific rugby.