Japan Rugby League One 2023 Season Preview
The new season the Japan Rugby League One 2023 kicks off when the Ricoh Black Rams Tokyo face the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars on December 17 2022 in Tokyo.
The organisers of the Japan Rugby League One say it is a statement of the intent of the nation to gain a prominent place in the global club game.
The Wild Knights edged Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath in the last Top League final two years ago and beat Sungoliath again in a tight finish to the inaugural Japan Rugby League One final.
Other semi-finalists Kubota Spears Funabashi, Tokyo-Bay, and Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo should also be in contentions this season, while star-studded Toyota Verblitz will be making amends for missing last season’s playoffs.
JRLO chairman Genichi Tamatsuka is confident about the league’s future after its’ complicated birth impacted severely by the global pandemic, saying “While the victory and the first title were deservedly won by the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights, we were all victorious, by getting our new league up-and-running in such unique and difficult circumstances.
We appreciate that the number of big-name players and coaches in Japan Rugby League One generates interest for fans far beyond our shores. This is something that we are proud of and want to build on as we look to grow the league’s identity globally, while also extending the game’s reach further across Asia.”
Japan Rugby League One 2023 Format
The league has been reorganised for this season, with 12 teams contesting Division One, while six sides compete in the Second Division and a further five in the Third Division.
The competition includes a round of matches on Christmas Day (25 December 2022)and the finals take place at the end of May 2023.
Which International Rugby Stars are Playing The Japan Rugby League One 2023
Teams are allowed up to three foreign-capped test players in the Japan Leagues and a number of international stars are making their debut in Japan with several others returning from last season.
Seven of the Springboks who ended their November overseas international tour with a big win over England at Twickenham are now in Japan with their teammates.
Among the South African stars playing the Japan Rugby League One this season are Pieter Steph du Toit and lock Lood de Jager, Faf de Klerk, Malcolm Marx, Jesse Kriel, Kwagga Smith, while new signing Marcell Coetzee joins Kobe Steelers.
England international Joe Launchbury has made the trip to Japan joining Toyota Verblitz, while fellow England test international Nathan Hughes also joins the Japan Rugby League One.
Wallabies players include Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, and Bernard Foley who continue their careers in Japan. Kerevi will only play the last month of the season at best as he recovers from a knee injury sustained in this year’s Commonwealth Games Sevens. Koroibete at Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights are in pursuit of a third straight championship.
Powerhouse midfield player and former All Black Ngani Laumape is also a new face in this season’s Japan Top League after leaving the French Top 14 league.
NZ Captain Ardie Savea is set to play for Kobe Kobelco Steelers in 2023-24 season following the RWC 2023.
The Second Division also have plenty of international stars.
- Newly converted Tongan international and controversial former Wallaby Israel Folau plays in Division Two with Urayasu-D Rocks, who twice beat Super Rugby’s Western Force in 2022.
- The MIE Honda Heat see Argentina test captain Pablo Matera and Wallaby Tom Banks join the team.
- 65-cap French lock Yoann Maestriare part of the Toyota Industries Shuttles Aichi who are hoping for a return to the top flight in Japan.
- Wallaby lock Rory Arnold has made the switch from French Top 14 Stade Toulousain to the Hino Red Dolphins.
Will there be an Asian cross-border Rugby competition?
Asia remains the only continent without some sort of regional professional rugby club tournament and even earlier in 2022 the JRLO boss said “We need a cross-border type of competition to push up the quality of the league”.
Since the Sunwolves were ousted from Super Rugby and the short-lived Global Rapid Rugby experiment, the region is desperate for this type of completion, say some.
The Asia Rugby President Qais A. Al Dhalai recently posted a hint of a new Asia Rugby Grand League without providing any details (we assume this is aimed at national levels of rugby).
Asian Rugby Tournaments 2022-2023
- Asia Rugby U19 Men’s XV tournament 2022.
- Hong Kong vs Kazakhstan Womens XV Preview 2022.
- Bangkok 10s 2023 Confirms Tournament Divisions.
- Singapore International Touch Knockout 2023