Japan Rugby Top League 2020 dates
The dates for the Japan Rugby Top League 2020 tournament was released with the Top League season kicking off on January 12th and set to conclude on May 9th 2020.
Japan Top League 2020 format
The 2020 season will see 16 rugby teams compete in a “round-robin format with 120 games played at 30 different venues” it was announced on the Top League website. In recent years, the top teams would advance to a playoff series to determine the champion in a cup final.
This is the 57th edition of the Japanese national Rugby Football Championships. In 2019 the champions of the Japan Top League were the Kobe Kobelco Steelers.
It looks as if Toyota Verblitz will play in the Top League after two Verblitz players were indicted on possession of cocaine earlier this year and the team withdrew from the Top League Cup.
The full schedule of matches for 2020 can be seen here.
Top League 2020: Foreign players
With the RWC 2o19 taking place in Japan and disrupting the regular season, a record number of high-profile rugby players on the international stage have also announced they will be playing in Japan in 2020. These include:
- Brodie Retallick (NZ) – Kobe Steelers
- Sam Whitelock (NZ) – Panasonic Wild Knights
- Kieran Read (NZ) – Toyota Verblitz
- Ryan Crotty (NZ) – Kubota Spears
- Liam Squire (NZ) – NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes
- Jackson Hemopo (NZ) – Mitsubishi DynaBoars
- Tevita Li (NZ) -Suntory Sungoliath
- Samu Kerevi (Aus) – Suntory Sungoliath
- David Pocock (Aus) – Panasonic Wild Knights
- Wharenui Hawera (Aus) – Kubota Spears
- Sam Talakai (Aus) – Suntory Sungoliath
- Tom English (Aus) – Kurita Water Gush
- Jesse Kriel (SA) – Canon Eagles
- Lappies Labuschagne (SA) – Kubota Spears
- Deon Stegmann (SA) – Honda Heat
- Grant Hattingh (SA) – Kubota Spears
- Jacques Potgieter (SA) – Fukuoka Sanix Blues
- Willie Britz (SA) – NTT Shining Arcs
- Francois Uys (SA) – Toyota Verblitz
- Louis Schreuder (SA) – Kubota Spears
- Warren Whiteley (SA) – Docomo Red Hurricanes
- Jaco Kriel (SA) – Kubota Spears
- Lionel Mapoe (SA) – Kubota Spears
- Elton Jantjies (SA) – NTT Shining Arcs
In Japan’s second-tier, Kintetsu Liners also announced the signing of Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper and scrumhalf Will Genia. Fellow Australian Bernard Foley will also join the Top League in 2020.
A number of top international coaches are also plying their trade in Japan. Robbie Deans, Frans Ludeke, Allister Coetzee, Jake White and Rob Penney are all based in the Top League and Steve Hansen is set to join the league in 2020 after the RWC.
Japan Top League Cup Final
In the recent Japan Top League Cup Final, which has no restrictions on the number of foreign played allowed to play, Kobe Kobelco Steelers beat the Kubota Spears 43-7 to lift the Top League Cup.
Super Rugby 2020: Sunwolves
The Sunwolves will enter their final season also in 2020. After it was confirmed in 2019 the Japanese franchise was axed. For the final season, a Japan coach has been appointed for the first time.
The current assistant coach Naoya Okubo was appointed over the past week. Okubo is the former director of rugby at the Japan Top League’s Suntory Sungoliath but has been an assistant with the Sunwolves for the past two years.
Global Rapid Rugby
With the GRR set to go ahead with its first full season in 2020, no Japanese team has yet been confirmed, although there are rumours the Sunwolves could make the move after the completion of the 2020 season.