March 20, 2019 / 4:09 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Rugby-SANZAAR to rule on Super Rugby as Sunwolves await fate

* SANZAAR to issue statement on Super Rugby on Friday

* Australian media report Sunwolves will be cut from tournament

* Japanese rugby union says awaiting advice on Sunwolves

* (Adds JRFU comment)

MELBOURNE, March 20 (Reuters) - Southern hemisphere rugby’s governing body (SANZAAR) said on Wednesday it will clarify the future of Super Rugby at the end of the week, with Australian media reporting the Tokyo-based Sunwolves are to be cut from the competition.

SANZAAR said it would make an official statement on the tournament on Friday.

“SANZAAR and its stakeholders will not be making any comment on Super Rugby until the statement has been released,” it added in a media release.

The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday that SANZAAR had already decided to cut the struggling Sunwolves, who have won just seven of their 43 matches since joining the competition in 2016.

The report, citing an unnamed Sunwolves spokesperson, said the team had objected to a request from SANZAAR to pay a Super Rugby participation fee, which is not asked of any of the other franchises.

A Japan Rugby Football Union source said the governing body was awaiting clarification from SANZAAR.

“The JRFU hasn’t received communication from SANZAAR about the future of the Sunwolves in Super Rugby,” the source, who declined to be named, told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Sunwolves, currently fourth in the five-team Australian conference of Super Rugby after losing four of their five games this season, were unable to provide immediate comment.

The Sunwolves joined Super Rugby along with South Africa’s Southern Kings and Argentine side Jaguares when the competition expanded from 15 to 18 teams.

The Japanese side retained their spot when the tournament reverted to 15 teams last year after the expanded format proved unpopular with fans and broadcasters.

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Additional reporting by Jack Tarrant in Tokyo; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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