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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

Players asked to cover their tattoos during Rugby World Cup in Japan

Tattoos have long been associated with the Yakuza crime syndicates in Japan.

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams in action against France last year.
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams in action against France last year.
Image: Liewig Christian/ABACA

PLAYERS HAVE BEEN asked to cover their tattoos during the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year for fear that they might offend the local population.

In Japanese culture, tattoos have been associated with the Yakuza crime syndicates and players have been asked to wear vests when training in public gyms or using amenities such as swimming pools.

“We will make [Japanese] people aware around the facilities that players will use that people with tattoos in a Rugby World Cup context are not part of the Yakuza,” said Alan Gilpin, the tournament director.

“We have done a lot in the last year or so with the teams to get them to understand that. When we raised it with the teams a year or so ago, we were probably expecting a frustrated reaction from them but there hasn’t been at all.

“That is a great tribute to the sport itself and to the rugby players themselves. They all also buy into the idea of putting on a rash vest in the pool or in a gym as they want to respect the Japanese culture.

“If they are using a public pool, they will have to cover up. Players will also have to wear different trainers indoors and outdoors. It will all be self-policing.

We won’t force any teams to cover up but they will want to because they want to be seen to be respecting the culture. Whether it is Scotland, Ireland, Wales or Italy, who have all been there recently, they all get it.”

The New Zealand Rugby Federation have been one of the first to come out behind the statement and say they will “be respectful of the local customs and culture” in refraining from having players’ tattoos on show.

Sonny Bill Williams, Codie Taylor and Aaron Smith are among those on the New Zealand panel who all sport tattoos.

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