International Rugby Board chief Brett Gosper has urged SANZAR to pick Japan as the 18th team in a newly expanded Super Rugby competition, saying it will create momentum for the 2019 World Cup.
Super Rugby organiser SANZAR began a global search last month for another team after the unions of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia backed a new four-conference, two-group model from 2016.
A sixth South African side has already been announced and an Argentinian franchise is also set for inclusion, leaving the 18th slot up for grabs.
Organisers are keen to take the competition to new markets with interest received from America, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, according to New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew.
Gosper said the world governing body would prefer the licence to go to Japan.
“The IRB, given there is a World Cup in Japan in 2019, we would be very happy with any part of Asia,â€ he told The Australian newspaper Friday.
“Certainly anything that continues to gain momentum in Japan would be appealing for us.
“Our preference is they choose something that makes it work for the competition obviously, but anecdotally, Japan would be interesting for us.
He said that while adding a Japanese team would create logistical challenges, the benefits would outweigh the costs.
“Flights from South Africa and so on might not be the simplest option, but look at it from a purely selfish IRB stand, Japan would be interesting.
“It is a strong market. It would create greater interest in the World Cup. It would build the competitiveness of some of the Japanese players who were in that team.
“It would provide interest for the fan-base there. It would be good momentum towards the World Cup and eventually the Olympics where Sevens will be played next time after Rio.”
The four-conference, two-group future of Super Rugby will have each team playing 15 games and having two byes across a 17-week regular season.