Michael Hooper wants to see Japan in more internationals

Chris Evans

Australia captain Michael Hooper admits he would love to see Japan play more international matches, but accepts that player welfare is an issue for rugby’s governing bodies.

Hooper, who is currently on a sabbatical year playing for Toyota Verblitz, has been left impressed with what he has seen from the quality on offer during his time in Japan.

Despite an outstanding showing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Japan have yet to play a fixture since they fell to defeat to South Africa. Even in non-covid times the Brave Blossoms have struggled to earn consistent fixtures against tier one nations.

Hooper believes that is a problem that needs to be addressed, but warns governing bodies to be careful not to over-burden players from other nations with too many Test matches.

“There’s concern if you up the amount of test matches,” Hooper told AAP.

“You won’t see players go super deep into their careers. It does take a toll on your body physically and mentally. Mentally due to the travel, picking yourself up physically, battling through time away from home.

“It (the burden on a player) is multi layered – not just how many minutes you play on the weekend. Getting it right is so key.”

Hooper’s sentiments echoed by Read

Hooper’s teammate, former New Zealand captain Kieran Read, echoed the Wallaby’s sentiments and believes it is time for Japan to be included in a major tournament.

“They’re arguably one of the top eight sides in the world now after the World Cup. The fact they haven’t been able to play any footy since then is a shame,” Read said.

“Hopefully we can give them a chance to play some international footy. The only way you can get better is to play those top sides more regularly.”

Hooper believes that one solution could be to create an Indian Premier League style tournament in Japan.

“You can get more guys from Europe coming down, and players coming up from the Southern Hemisphere,” he added.

“There’s plenty of ideas out there, it’s whether we can execute them and whether they’re reasonable within the already busy schedule.”