S'pore co-based rugby team named Sunwolves

After being plagued by uncertainty in recent months, Japan's new Super Rugby team are finally beginning to take shape.

Yesterday, the Japan Super Rugby Association (JRSA) announced that the team - the first Asian franchise of the elite competition - will be called the Sunwolves.

The outfit will be co-based in Tokyo and Singapore, splitting its home matches in both cities.

Although the Sunwolves are still without a head coach, they have stepped up their recruitment efforts recently, and added Queensland Reds flanker Ed Quirk and about 10 players from Japan's World Cup squad.

They will open the 2016 season against South African side Lions in Tokyo on Feb 27, before making their Singapore debut on March 12, when they host another South African side, the Cheetahs, at the 55,000-seater National Stadium.

The Republic will stage two more Sunwolves clashes - against the Bulls (March 26) and Stormers (May 14).

Singapore is a second home to the Sunwolves, thanks to an agreement signed last year between the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) and its Japanese counterpart, which will also provide technical expertise in coaching, referees and medical support to help boost the game locally.

Said SRU vice-president Jonathan Leow: "The fact that they've announced a name shows that things are moving in the right direction and we're looking forward to the partnership between both parties."

The name Sunwolves combines the imagery of Japan, the "Land of the Rising Sun", and the fierce and loyal instincts of a wolf.

Next year's Super Rugby competition has been expanded from the current 15 to 18 teams.

Tournament organiser Sanzar's interim chief executive Brendan Morris welcomed the Sunwolves to Super Rugby.

He said: "It's an exciting time for the sport and also for fans throughout Japan who can start getting behind the brand, identity and ethos of their Super Rugby team.

"The JRSA did a tremendous job engaging the fans and we look forward to watching the nation get behind this team as they continue to take shape in the coming months."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore co-based rugby team named Sunwolves'. Print Edition | Subscribe