SYDNEY (AP) — Either Singapore or Japan will have a team in the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby competition in 2016 with governing body SANZAR confirming Wednesday that one of those nations will be home to the 18th team.
SANZAR had already committed to expanding the competition from its existing 15 teams to 17 in 2016 by adding Argentina's first team and a sixth from South Africa, and an Asian team has now received the green light.
"Asia is a region that has been the focus of considerable investment by the International Rugby Board in recent years and is a strategically sound location for the evolution of Super Rugby," SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said.
"We were happy with the number of responses received, however the two stand-out expressions of interest that were most attractive to the SANZAR Unions were received from Japan and Singapore."
The two bidders now have until the middle of August to submit formal tenders, which will be assessed according to commercial value, infrastructure, geographic location, rugby readiness and ongoing sustainability.
The addition of the three new franchises will see Super Rugby grow from three conferences to four.
While the Australian and New Zealand conferences will continue to be made up by their five existing teams, the South African conference will be split into two, with the Argentinian team slotting into the first pool and the Asian side slotting into the second.
Each team will play 15 games and have two byes across a 17-week regular season