Cross-Border Rugby 2024 – Round 1 Preview
The competition sees some of the leading rugby clubs from Japan Rugby League One and DHL Super Rugby Pacific involved – the first tournament between Japanese corporate clubs and New Zealand professional sides.
This is seen as the start of a long-term connection between the countries at club level, and the matches over the course of consecutive weekends, will be played under trial conditions.
There are coach connections too as the Chiefs were formerly coached by current Kobelco Kobe Steelers coach Dave Rennie, who won two titles with the club in 2012 and 2013, and five-time Crusaders Super Rugby-winning coach Robbie Deans is in charge at the Wild Knights where he has also won multiple titles and currently top the log of the JRLO.
The Cross Border Rugby 2024 – Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath vs Blues
Saturday 3rd February 2024 – Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo, 12pm
The Blues are under new management with former Scotland and Fiji coach Vern Cotter in charge, and he has named a strong squad which includes several All Blacks as they prepare for their season in which they hope to go one step further than their Super Rugby Pacific semifinal last season.
Sungoliath will also use the match against the Blues to give veteran Los Pumas flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez his debut in Japan. The Argentine has an international career that boasts 110 tests and 941 test points and he will help mentor the young upcoming rookie flyhalf, Mikiya Takamoto.
Other dangermen for the home side are Kotaro Matsushima, the 55-time capped international who has scored twice in five JRLO matches this season, and second rower Harry Hockings who made more tackles than any other player across all three Divisions of the JRLO last season. The former Queensland Reds player is also edging towards qualification for Japan on residential grounds.
The Blues feature a number of All Blacks, including some who have experience playing in Japan such as Patrick Tuipulotu. Other stars are the impressionable Hoskins Sotutu in the back row, while Stephen Perofeta steers the Blues ship from flyhalf.
The Japanese National Women’s Rugby Championship Final will take place after this match at the same venue, played between Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix and Mie Pearls.
The Cross Border Rugby 2024 – Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights vs Gallagher (Waikato) Chiefs
Sunday 4th February 2024 – Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama, 2.30pm
For the Wild Knights, Dylan Riley at centre has been a key member of the side and he was the top try-scorer in the maiden Japan Rugby League One three seasons ago and sits atop the standings this season with six tries. The former Australia U20 has now played for the Brave Blossoms 18 times.
Another player with an Australian connection in the Japanese side is Jack Cornelsen (second row) whose father was a Wallaby – Greg Cornelsen. The lock and loose forward has 20 test caps for Japan including all four games at RWC 2023.
Iconic Japanese hooker Shota Horie is in his final season and played his 150th game for the Wild Knights last season. He has attended four Rugby World Cups with Japan and has 76 test matches.
The Gallagher Chiefs’ Kaylum Boshier will face his older brother Lachlan now is in his second season with the Wild Knights, and both play in the backrow.
Former Urayasu D-Rocks player, Jimmy Tupou (second row/back-rower), see the former New Zealand Under-20 captain return to the Japanese shores with his new NZ club.
Finally, young centre Quinn Tupaea has played 14 tests for the All Blacks before injury ruled him out of contention for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
How To Watch Cross-Border Rugby 2024
JRLO announced that the Cross-Border matches will be broadcast in Japan live on J SPORTS On Demand, while TV Kanagawa will broadcast one game.
- For fans in the Pacific Islands – Digicel
- Fans in New Zealand – Sky Sport
The latest news is that international fans from beyond these territories will be able to watch the matches live on NZR+, the New Zealand Union’s digital channel – (we signed up and browsed the platform but couldn’t see any mention of the matches but suggest you try it and see if it works.)
- February 3rd 2024 – Tokyo Suntory Goliath vs Blues @Prince Chichibu Rugby Stadium (The first match will be held concurrently with the 10th National Women’s Rugby Football Championship Final) 12 PM
- February 4th 2024 – Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights vs Gallagher Chiefs @Kumagaya Rugby Stadium 2:30 PM
- February 10th 2024 – Yokohama Canon Eagles vs Blues @Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium, Yokohama, 12.10 PM
- February 10th 2024 – Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay vs Gallagher Chiefs @Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo, 2.30 PM
More details on the ticket information and broadcast schedule can be found on the Cross-Border website.
JRLO Division 2
It should be noted there are still two JRLO Division Two fixtures this weekend:
- Saturday, February 3 – Urayasu D-Rocks v Red Hurricanes Osaka; Tokyo, 1pm
- Sunday, February 4 – NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu v Japan Steel Kamaishi Seawaves; Chiba, 2.30pm