World Rugby, the sport’s global governing body, has revealed that players will have to cover their tattoos ahead of the World Cup in Japan.

In Japan, tattoos have long been associated with the notorious yakuza crime syndicates and inked tourists can find themselves barred from traditional communal hot springs, or onsens.

Players are being asked to wear vests when using gyms or pools, reports The Telegraph newspaper.

But tournament director Alan Gilpin said there had been no objections from players.

“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,” The Telegraph quoted him as saying.

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“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 [a shirt used for watersports] 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.”

The rules will “all be self-policing”, he added.

The New Zealand All Blacks have confirmed that their players – many of whom sport full or half-sleeve tattoos – will comply.

“When any of our teams tour we endeavour to be respectful of the local customs and culture, and this will be no different when we visit Japan both this year and next year,” New Zealand Rugby chief rugby officer Nigel Cass told news website Stuff.

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