UPDATE 1-Rugby-Yamaha to ditch professional players to cut costs

* Move on orders from owners Yamaha Motors

* Players may get option to join company payroll

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TOKYO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Japan’s Yamaha Jubilo rugby club will release their entire professional playing staff as part of cost-cutting measures by owners Yamaha Motors.

Jubilo said on Monday that all 17 professionals, including nine foreign players, would be let go and the team would be made up solely of company employees from next April.

The move comes as Yamaha Motors looks to reduce costs amid a severe market downturn that has prompted several Japanese motor companies to take similar measures.

Japan international players such as prop Ryo Yamamura and fullback Ayumu Goromaru among the team’s eight local professional will be given the option of switching to a corporate contract, according to a Nikkan Sports report.

The future of the club’s five New Zealand-born players, including former All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne, was also thrown into doubt following Yamaha’s decision.

The world’s largest carmaker Toyota pulled out of Formula One earlier this month, leaving Japan without a team in motor sport’s glamour series.

Honda also blamed the global financial crisis for their decision to quit Formula last December while Subaru and Suzuki subsequently withdrew from the world rallying championship.

Bike maker Kawasaki also scrapped its MotoGP team and Japanese tyre maker Bridgestone recently announced they will not renew their supply contract with Formula One after next season.

The pullout of Japanese companies from F1 began with Honda-backed Super Aguri, who left for financial reasons in 2008.

Reporting by Alastair Himmer. Editing by John O’Brien; To comment on this story email