Japan Top League confirms 2021 schedule
The Japan Top League has officially announced its 2021 season schedule which will see 103 rugby union matches played across the country.
The Top League is set to kick off on January 16, 2021, and will have the final played on 23 May 2021. Fans will be able to access more information on the tickets in mid-November 2020.
The opening round will feature Toshiba Brave Lupus play NTT Communications Shining Arcs at Japan National Stadium.
The stadium, formerly known as New National Stadium, is based in Tokyo, Japan and will also serve as the main stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2021.
Format of 2021 Japan Top League
The Top League in 2021 will be conducted in stages. It will comprise of three stages involving 25 rugby teams – 16 current Top League professional teams, and 9 rugby teams from the Top Challenge in Japan (who are not pro teams).
You can read more about the confusing league structure here. Less than a month ago, Rugby News Japan reported that well-known former coach Katsuyuki Kiyomiya quit the Top League organising committee and teams were upset with how plans were progressing for the season.
The Top League 2nd stage will run from March 26 to April 25, 2021, and will be followed by the playoff tournament from May 8 to May 23 2021. The top two teams from each pool of 2nd stage will advance to the playoffs.
International rugby stars playing in the Top League
Many well-known international rugby players have already committed to the Japanese teams for the Top League. Some of the signings include:
- Kobe Steelers: Brodie Retallick, Ben Smith & Aaron Cruden (all New Zealand)
- Kubota Spears: Malcolm Marx (South Africa), Ryan Crotty (New Zealand)
- Toyota Verblitz: Kieran Read (New Zealand), Michael Hooper (Australia)
- NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes: TJ Perenara (New Zealand) & Makazole Mapimpi (South Africa), Marty Banks (New Zealand)
- Ricoh Black Rams: Joe Tomane (Australia)
- Panasonic Wild Knights: George Kruis (England), Matt Todd (New Zealand)
- Shining Arcs: Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)
- Suntory Sungoliath: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
- Yamaha Jubilo: Kwagga Smith (South Africa)
- Canon Eagles: Jesse Kriel (South Africa)
- NEC Green Rockets: Alex Goode (England)
- Dynaboars: Colin Slade (New Zealand)
- Honda Heat: Franco Mostert (South Africa)