TOKYO (Reuters) – England’s Ben Te’o will feature for the Sunwolves in what will be their final season in Super Rugby, the Japanese team said on Tuesday.
Centre Te’o, who agreed a short-term deal with French club Toulon in August, will be joined at the Tokyo-based team by Tonga’s Onehunga Kaufusi and Australia’s Jake Schatz, the Sunwolves said.
Te’o, 32, was left out of Eddie Jones’ England squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan after being excluded from the final week of a training camp due to an altercation with a team mate.
The Sunwolves, under new boss Naoya Okubo, also welcome back Georgian hooker Jaba Bregvadze and will add more names to the squad once contract negotiations have been completed, they said.
However, with Japan’s domestic competition running at the same time as Super Rugby many top local players are unavailable.
The 2020 season will be the Sunwolves’ last in Super Rugby after the competition’s governing body SANZAAR and the Japanese Football Rugby Union failed to agree on the terms of their inclusion in March.
Since coming into Super Rugby for the 2016 season the Sunwolves have struggled to compete with the mostly established South African, New Zealand and Australian sides.
They won their first away match in New Zealand last season but finished the campaign having won just two of their 16 game.
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has consistently praised his players’ involvement in the competition, however, and said it was a key factor in reaching the World Cup knockout round for the first time.
“For our national team to keep on challenging the next level of rugby we need to develop the next generation of Japanese players and work hard together,” said Joseph, who also coached the Sunwolves, in a message sent from New Zealand.
“Only then can we capitalize on all the hard work that has been done in the past four years.
“The challenge starts now.”
The Sunwolves begin their final Super Rugby campaign with a home match against the Melbourne Rebels in Fukuoka on Feb. 1.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Peter Rutherford)