Just five months before Japan hosts Rugby World Cup 2019, former Japan Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said Wednesday he will step down as honorary chairman of the Japan Rugby Football Union.
"He told me it's no good unless we have younger people take the lead," JRFU managing director Noriyuki Sakamoto said after the 81-year-old Mori abruptly declared his intent after a board of directors meeting.
According to someone at the meeting, Mori explained that with Japan losing its Super Rugby franchise, the Sunwolves, after 2020, and the future of the Japan Top League in doubt, Japan critically needs a vision for after the World Cup.
By making the announcement well in advance of June's elections for JRFU offices, Mori is opening the door for 80-year-old chairman Masaru Okamura to leave by rising to the post as the next honorary chairman.
Mori, who said he intends to remain involved with rugby, did not give the JRFU leadership advance notice. He previously served five terms as JRFU chairman from 2005 to 2015, becoming honorary chairman when Okamura took over as chairman.