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The members of International Rugby League (IRL) have voted to support the IRL Board’s recommendation to admit Japan as an observer member. This, plus the admission of Montenegro, takes the total membership of IRL to 56 nations.

IRL Secretary General Danny Kazandjian welcomed the new members, saying: “I would like to thank the Japan Rugby League (JRL) for their applications. Japan, which has shown itself to be a truly dynamic sporting nation, is only the second Asian country admitted to IRL.

“We continue to work closely with all members who are not yet recognised by their own government, which is the vital element in progressing us towards full membership of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). Full membership of GAISF is an important ambition for IRL and a waypoint towards IOC recognition, which will see rugby league reach new levels of assimilation in multiple countries where it is still a young sport”

JRL President, Amani Konishi commented: “Japan Rugby League is very excited to become a member of International Rugby League. We are now in a great position to develop the game of rugby league for men, women & youth.

“On behalf of JRL, I would like to thank Jeremy Edwards and Gareth Holmes for their support in our membership application. Asia Pacific Rugby League has been and will continue to be a big support for us.”

Japan has been playing Rugby League since 1994 when the National team took part in the World Sevens in Sydney.

The inaugural Japan National Cup was established in 1998.

In 2021 the Japanese National Cup features five clubs, the South Ikebukuro Rabbitohs, Abiko Ducks, Kansai Kaminari, West Mix and Mitaka Spartans.