Rugby: Japan bosses apologise for ticket confusion

TOKYO - Japanese rugby bosses received another blow to their reputation after Friday's Top League season opener was played out in front of a half-empty stadium in Tokyo with supporters told the game was sold out and turned away.

The defending champion Panasonic Wild Knights beat Suntory Sungoliath 38-5 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in front of 10,792 spectators.

The Japan Rugby Football Union had said it had sold around 20,000 tickets for the fixture.

"We've let fans down by declining their entrance with premature judgment. I'm sorry for the players on the pitch too," JRFU executive director Hiroshi Konishi was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.

Wild Knights scrumhalf Fumiako Tanaka was not happy. "We heard it was going to be packed. Honestly it was sad," he said.

The JRFU should be basking in a successful World Cup campaign last month after the 'Brave Blossoms' won three matches including a shock victory over twice champions South Africa, but once again they are dealing with criticism.

The country will host the 2019 World Cup but has already raised the ire of World Rugby officials after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrapped plans for the new Olympic Stadium, which was due to host the final but will not be ready until after the tournament.

Japan will also enter a franchise into the expanding Super Rugby competition next year but New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said this week that tournament organisers SANZAR remained "pretty nervous about their readiness" for the February start date.

"They haven't announced a coach yet and haven't got a full player roster," he said.

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