Japan could receive a shock invitation to join the Six Nations, following their success as hosts of the Rugby World Cup.
The idea has been floated in private after it emerged that the Rugby Championship — the Southern Hemisphere equivalent — were dithering about including the fast emerging Japanese and were proposing a delay of four or five years before sanctioning their involvement.
No formal discussions have taken place but World Rugby are aware that, given the growing popularity of rugby in Japan, key figures within the Six Nations organisation have expressed an interest in creating a tournament that stretches 6,000 miles to the Far East.
It is unlikely, however, that this has been placed before the six nations already involved at this early stage.
It has never before been thought possible that the Six Nations could move beyond Europe. It began as a competition between countries in the British Isles before the inclusion of France in 1910 and Italy in 2000. Recently, there has been talk of widening the competition to Georgia or Russia, perhaps at Italy's expense, although again there has never been a formal proposal.
Sir Clive Woodward is among the advocates of promotion and relegation in a bid to raise standards.
The success of this World Cup has brought Japan's status into sharper focus. There is a great desire within the sport to capitalise on Japan's achievement – both as a team, winning a group that included Ireland and Scotland, and as hosts.
England are already undertaking a two-match tour there next summer, with games planned in Kobe and Oita, and Wales are also planning to return.
The months in which the Six Nations are played, mainly February and March, are benign in Japan, well away from typhoon season, and at the end of winter coming into spring.
Even if the trip was daunting for travelling fans, it would be expected that stadiums would sell out with locals excited by the prospect of competitive matches.
The novelty and Japan's exciting style of rugby would be of great interest to broadcasters, too.
World Rugby are aware of the idea and have not opposed it – although any suggestion of taking the Six Nations beyond Europe is bound to find opposition from traditionalists. Europe's leagues would also try to resist a further invasion of their schedule.
The Rugby Championship would be Japan's natural home – and no doubt its preferred destination, given the additional popularity of the All Blacks there. South Africa will also have a growing following, having won Japan's World Cup. Yet a global Six Nations remains an intriguing proposition, one that would appeal to sponsors and increase revenue streams.
Interesting idea, but I don't think the logistics really permit such a thing. It would make more sense for Japan to participate in a restructured Rugby Championship in my opinion. Eith er way, if left isolated, they'll regress again. Japan is growing the game well and some form of regular test rugby against quality opposition on a consistent basis needs to be arranged. They've proven themselves better than both Argentina and Italy, at least this year.