Preparations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan are well under way but a request to players and supporters in the competition raised eyebrows this week when it was made public.

Tattooed players within the teams, as well as their inked-up fans have been asked to wear rash vests when using swimming pools and gyms that are also open to the public to avoid causing offence.

In Japan, tattoos are associated with Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. And it seems the players are willing to do just that.


Alan Gilpin, the tournament director, said that when the matter was raised within the world rugby organisation a year ago, they expected some pushback from the players.

After all, you'd be hard-pressed to name a representative team that didn't have at least one player with some serious body art.

And for the Pacifika and Maori players, their tattoos are an important representation of who they are. But no – the teams understood that when they are guests in another country, it's about respecting that country's cultures and sensitivities and so all the participating teams have indicated that they will do what they can to avoid offending their hosts.

It seems incredible that it will be easier to cover up the thousands of tatts sported by rugby players than it was to cover up a few corporate advertising hoardings.

Remember how the issue of "clean stadia" cost New Zealand the right to co-host the 2003 Rugby World Cup with Australia?

But tattoos and their appropriateness have also been in the news this week after a report from that highlighted the outrage felt by many Aussie cops at being told to cover up their tattoos.

New Federal Police dress code guidelines state that officers with visible tattoos will be required to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants unless they apply for an exemption on religious, medical or cultural grounds.

I can't begin to imagine how uncomfortable it would be for officers, male and female, to be covered up from head to toe during summer in some parts of Australia but it's the Federal Police officers who are facing the heat right now.


An Aussie cop, who is reported as having a Southern Cross tattooed on his neck, says his culture is Aussie bogan. Tatts are a part of that and he has just as much right as everyone else to have his culture respected, the website quotes him as stating.

The AFP bosses have tried to put out the fire by saying that common sense will apply in the application of the policy and that exemptions will apply on a case by case basis but I think the Aussie cops do have a point.

I don't have any tattoos. I had a feeling that the bluebird of happiness that I might have had tattooed on my pert, upright breast back in my early 20s would one day be a scraggy old seagull crash-landing into my scrub and that wasn't really the look I was after.

If I was going to get a tattoo these days, it would have to be an accordion – as I lose weight, the accordion comes in; as I inevitably pile it on, the accordion stretches out.

It would be the only tatt I could imagine accommodating my continually changing body size. But I know plenty of people who sport tattoos and not one of them lacks significance.

They might not be cultural patterns, but they generally recount something meaningful that has occurred in that person's life and they are precious and symbolic to them.

New Zealand employers seem to be sympathetic to that and unless the tatts are offensive, quite literally in your face or downright ugly, tatts aren't a deal-breaker for most Kiwi employers. I wonder if they are for parents these days.

The other reason that put me off getting a tatt was the thought of what my dad would say.

He was reluctant for me to get my ears pierced – I couldn't even begin to imagine what would have happened if I turned up with a tatt. It could well have been, without a word of a lie when you're talking about a man with high blood pressure, the death of him.

I have a feeling that today's parents are a bit more tolerant – helped by the fact that the practitioners of body art these days are a lot more talented and sophisticated than the blokes who were around in the eighties.

It would be interesting to know whether tattoos are a "thing" these days for parents and employers. Or whether parents and employers understand that there are far more important issues to worry about.