Japan rugby bosses focusing on being global ahead of new professional league

Japan rugby bosses focusing on being global ahead of new professional league

Japan’s new-look professional rugby competition will launch next month with bold ambitions to win not only a domestic but a global audience, to attract the world’s best players and to expand the sport’s foothold in Asia, writes South China Morning Post.

Lotte Corporation president Genichi Tamatsuka, a former college rugby player who is now one of Japan’s most influential business leaders, has been appointed to run Japan League One, which kicks off on January 7 with competition among 24 teams across three divisions.



The league has the financial backing of corporate heavyweights such as Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Daiwa Securities Group and HITO-Communications. Team owners are a directory of Japan’s largest corporations: Panasonic, Toshiba, Kobe Steel and Toyota among them.


Tamatsuka said League One was inspired by the success on home soil of the Japan national team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Japan became the first Asian nation to host the quadrennial tournament and the first to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, beating Ireland and Scotland in the group stage.


“All of Japan, including kids, women, men, everybody was so excited for about six weeks. That was amazing,” Tamatsuka said. “We realised the potential of the rugby game. Maybe the spirit and values of rugby which are integrity, maybe solidarity, respect and one for all, those things are quite aligned with Japanese culture.


“So we thought this is really an opportunity to push up rugby as a sport more highly and let’s aim high.”



League One replaces the Japan Top League, which already was a magnet for some of the world’s best, offering high salaries for a season of relatively short duration compared with the British and European leagues. A total of 185 foreign players took part in the Top League in its final season, including 44 from the world’s top eight nations.


“The competition to get good players from the global market is surely becoming tougher and I think the environment in which to play rugby and the compensation are very important to keep our attractiveness to the non-Japanese players,” Shoji said. “Here, the teams and companies are making a heavy investment to make a better environment and, in terms of compensation, I think the rugby market expansion itself is very important.”

Full story via South China Morning Post

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