England’s stars have been told cover up their tattoos at next year’s Rugby World Cup – because of links to the Japanese mafia.
The team hotels for the sport’s showpiece were allocated on Thursday after a warning about swimming pool recovery sessions.
Unless pools are booked out for private use, players will be ordered to wear skin tight tops to conceal their body art.
Tattoos are heavily associated with yakuza mobsters and carry a social stigma, with guests often refused entry to public baths and hot springs.
Head of the Rugby World Cup Alan Gilpin said players will be expected to cover up by wearing a vest when swimming in a public pool.
“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,” he said.
“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.”