Japan Rugby League One

Last updated

Japan Rugby League One
Current season
Rugby football current event.svg 2022–23 Japan Rugby League One – Division 1
Japan Rugby League One logo.svg
Sport Rugby union
Formerly known asTop League (2003–2021)
Instituted2003
Inaugural season 2003–04
Number of teams12
CountryFlag of Japan.svg  Japan
Champions Saitama Wild Knights
(2022)
Most titles(6 titles)
Website league-one.en
Broadcast partner J Sports
DAZN
The Rugby Network
Related competition Top Challenge League

Japan Rugby League One (formerly the Top League) is a rugby union competition in Japan. It is the highest level of professional rugby competition in the country. The Japan Rugby Football Union created the competition in 2003, by absorbing the Japan Company Rugby Football Championship, to drive up the overall standard and popularity of the sport and improve the results of the Japan national rugby union team. The chief architect of the league was Hiroaki Shukuzawa who strongly felt the urgency of improving Japanese domestic company rugby to a professional level which would allow Japan to compete more convincingly at Rugby World Cups.

Contents

Until 2022, it was an industrial league, where many players were employees of their company and the teams were all owned by major companies. While the competition was known for paying high salaries, only world-class foreign players and a small number of Japanese players played fully professionally, which meant most of the players still played in an amateur capacity. The delayed 2021 season was the final season of the Top League, with the JRFU adopting a new fully-professional three-tier system from 2022. [1] More details about the new structure was announced to the media in January 2021. Featuring 25 teams, the 12 top-tier clubs would be split into two conferences, with seven teams competing in division two and six in division three. [2] The new competition was formally announced as Japan Rugby League One in July 2021. [3]

The first season in 2003–04 featured 12 teams. The league was expanded to 14 teams in 2006–07 and 16 teams in 2013–14. The Top League is played during the off-season of the Super Rugby, Therefore, many full-time foreign professionals from Southern Hemisphere countries have played in the Top League, notably Tony Brown, George Gregan and Dan Carter. In the 2010s, salaries in the Top League have risen to become some of the highest in the rugby world; in 2012, South Africa's Jaque Fourie, now with Kobelco Steelers, was widely reported to be the world's highest-paid player. [4]

Rugby System's Divisions

The 2021 format of the first all-professional edition for the Japanese club system is divided into three divisions.

Division 1

The league consists of 12 teams based in various cities in the country.

Division 2

Division 3

Developments

Former logo 2003-2021 TopLeaguelogo.png
Former logo 2003–2021

A second-tier Top League Challenge Series was also introduced in 2003. Between 2003–04 and 2016–17, teams from three regional leagues would qualify to this post-season competition, in which they could either win promotion to the next season's Top League, or qualify to promotion play-off matches.

In 2017, a second-tier Top Challenge League was introduced, to operate in a league format above the regional leagues. [8]

The regional leagues are:

With the creation of Rugby League One and its three divisions, the raison d'etre for the Top Challenge League ceased to exist, and it was discontinued.

Seasons

Sixteen teams: 2012 onwards

Fourteen teams: 2006 to 2012

Ninth season (2011–12)

NTT Shining Arcs and Yamaha Jubilo which won their 2005 promotion/relegation play-offs (Irekaesen) against Canon Eagles and Kyuden Voltex to retain their places for the 2011–12 season. The following teams were in the league:

The top 4 sides of the regular season (Suntory, Toshiba, Sanyo, and NEC) competed in the 2012 Top League Champions Cup knock-out tournament for the Top League title at Chichibu, Tokyo. Suntory defeated Sanyo 47–28 in the final to win the title. Both teams met again a few weeks later in the final of the 49th All-Japan Rugby Football Championship.

Additionally, in the Wildcard play-offs , the Top League teams ranked 5th and 8th (Kintetsu Liners and Yamaha Jubilo) played each other at Hanazono, Osaka, as did the teams ranked 6th and 7th (Kobe Steelers and Ricoh Black Rams), with the winners (Kobe and Yamaha) also qualifying for the All-Japan Rugby Football Championship.

Eighth season (2010–11)

Honda Heat and Kyuden Voltex were automatically relegated at the completion of the 2009–10 season for finishing 13th and 14th. Toyota Industries Shuttles and NTT Communications Shining Arcs won promotion through the Top Challenge series. The following teams were in the league:

The top 4 sides (Toshiba, Sanyo, Toyota and Suntory) from the regular season competed in a knock out tournament to fight for the Top League title. In the final, Sanyo defeated Suntory 28–23.

Seventh season (2009–10)

IBM Big Blue and Yokogawa Atlastars were automatically relegated at the completion of the 2008–9 season for finishing 13th and 14th. Ricoh and Honda won promotion through the Top Challenge series. Kyuden and Sanix retained their places in Top League when they won their respective promotion and relegation play-offs. The following teams were in the league:

Sixth season (2008–9)

Kintetsu Liners returned to the league, and Yokogawa Denki were promoted for the first time (and renamed Yokogawa Musashino Atlastars in the off season). They replaced Ricoh Black Rams and Mitsubishi Sagamihara DynaBoars. The following teams were in the league:

Fifth season (2007–8)

Fukuoka Sanix Blues v Kyuden Voltex at Global Arena, Round 11, 20 January 2008 Sanix v Kyuden Top League Japan 2008.JPG
Fukuoka Sanix Blues v Kyuden Voltex at Global Arena, Round 11, 20 January 2008

Kyuden Voltex and Mitsubishi Sagamihara DynaBoars joined the league for the first time. The following 14 teams were in the Top League in the 2007–08 season:

The top four teams (Sanyo, Suntory, Toyota and Toshiba) played in the fifth Microsoft Cup to decide the league champion. Suntory beat Sanyo 14–10 in the final to become the 2007–08 champions. Mitsubishi (14th) and Ricoh (13th) were automatically relegated.

Fourth season (2006–7)

The number of teams was increased from 12 to 14. Coca-Cola West Red Sparks became the second Kyushu-based team in the Top League. IBM returned to the league.

The top four teams in the league played in the Microsoft Cup which was officially integrated into the league from this season as the "Top League Play-off Tournament Microsoft Cup". Toshiba won the cup and also won the All-Japan Championship. Secom and World (13th and 14th) were automatically relegated, to be replaced by Kyuden Voltex, the third team from Kyushu to enter the league, and Mitsubishi Sagamihara DynaBoars from Kanto.

Twelve teams 2003 to 2006

Third season (2005–6)

After the pre-season 2005 Challenge series, Secom and Sanix returned after a year out of the league, replacing Kintetsu and IBM. The following 12 teams competed in the third season:

Toshiba again won both the league round-robin and the Microsoft Cup knockout competition contested by the top 8 teams after the regular season. Coca-Cola West Japan (now Coca-Cola West Red Sparks) gained promotion to the League at the end of the season. IBM also gained promotion to return to the league.

Second season (2004–5)

Following the 2004 Challenge series with IBM and Toyota being promoted, the following 12 teams competed in the second season:

Toshiba won both the league round-robin and the Microsoft Cup knockout competition contested by the top 8 teams after the regular season. The eleventh and twelfth teams (Kintetsu and IBM) were automatically relegated, and the ninth and tenth placed teams (World and Ricoh) had to win their 2005 promotion and relegation play-offs (Irekaesen) to stay in the Top League, which they did.

First season (2003–4)

The first season began with 12 teams:

Toshiba won the inaugural Top League title by finishing on top of the round-robin competition. The top eight teams qualified for the inaugural Microsoft Cup. Toshiba went on to lose the final of Microsoft Cup to NEC, but the cup was considered a separate competition to the Top League prior to 2007. Secom and Sanix were relegated at the end of the season. IBM and Toyota were promoted.

Champions

SeasonChampions
Top League
2003–04 Kobesteelers.png Kobelco Steelers *
2004–05 Toshibabravelupus.png Toshiba Brave Lupus
2005–06 Toshibabravelupus.png Toshiba Brave Lupus
2006–07 Toshibabravelupus.png Toshiba Brave Lupus
2007–08 Suntorycolours.png Suntory Sungoliath
2008–09 Toshibabravelupus.png Toshiba Brave Lupus
2009–10 Toshibabravelupus.png Toshiba Brave Lupus
2010–11 Sanyowildknights.png Sanyo Wild Knights
2011–12 Suntorycolours.png Suntory Sungoliath
2012–13 Suntorycolours.png Suntory Sungoliath
2013–14 PanasonicWildKnights.png Panasonic Wild Knights
2014–15 PanasonicWildKnights.png Panasonic Wild Knights
2015–16 PanasonicWildKnights.png Panasonic Wild Knights
2016–17 Suntorycolours.png Suntory Sungoliath
2017–18 Suntorycolours.png Suntory Sungoliath
2018–19 Kobesteelers.png Kobelco Steelers
2019–20 season cancelled
2021 PanasonicWildKnights.png Panasonic Wild Knights
Japan Rugby League One
2022 PanasonicWildKnights.png Saitama Wild Knights
Notes
* NEC Green Rockets won the Microsoft Cup in 2003–04. The Cup was considered a separate competition to the Top League prior to 2007.

Notable foreign players

The following foreign players that have played in the Top League have either won or been nominated for a major IRB award, played in a Rugby World Cup, played for a combined-nations touring side, or captained their national team.

Flag of New Zealand.svg Kieran Read (2007–present)– 2011, 2015 (World Champions) and 2019 World Cups
Flag of New Zealand.svg Ben Smith (2007–present)– 2015 (World Champions) and 2019 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Aaron Cruden (2010–present)– 2011 (World Champions) World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Beauden Barrett (2011–present)– 2015 (World Champions) and 2019 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg TJ Perenara (2012–present)– 2015 (World Champions) and 2019 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Sam Whitelock (2010–present)– 2011, 2015 (World Champions) and 2019 World Cups
Flag of New Zealand.svg Matt Todd (2011–present)– 2019 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Brodie Retallick (2012–present)– 2015 (World Champions) and 2019 World Cups
Flag of New Zealand.svg Dan Carter (2018–2020) – 2003 and 2007 World Cups, 2011 and 2015 (World Champions)
Flag of New Zealand.svg Ma'a Nonu (2011–2020)– 2003, 2007 and 2011 (World Champions)
Flag of New Zealand.svg Sonny Bill Williams (2012-2020)– 2011 and 2015 World Cups (World Champions)
Flag of New Zealand.svg Ryan Crotty (2009-2020)– 2019 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Jerome Kaino (2004-2018)– 2011 and 2015 World Cups (World Champions)
Flag of New Zealand.svg Rico Gear (1999-2010)– 20-capped New Zealand international
Flag of New Zealand.svg Leon MacDonald (1997-2010)– 2003 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Reuben Thorne (1996-2009)– 1999, 2003 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Jerry Collins (1999-2015)– 2003 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of New Zealand.svg Tony Brown (1999-2011)– 1999 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Quade Cooper (2006–present)– 2011 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Adam Ashley-Cooper (2017–2018) – 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Berrick Barnes (2013–present) – 2007, and 2011 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Matt Cockbain (2004–2006) – 1999 (World Champions) and 2003 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg David Pocock (2016–2018)– 2011 and 2015 World Cup, 2010 and 2011 IRB Player of the Year nominee
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Bernard Foley (2015–2016)– 2015 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Matt Giteau (2017–2020)– 2003, 2007, and 2015 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Mark Gerrard (2010–2018)– 2003, and 2007 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg George Gregan (2008–2011)– 1999 (World Champions), 2003 (Captain) and 2007 (Captain) World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg George Smith (2011–2018)– 2003 and 2007 World Cup and 2001 IRB Player of the Year nominee
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Digby Ioane (2017–2019)– 2011 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Toutai Kefu (2004–2010)– 1999 (World Champions) and 2003 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Stephen Larkham (2008–2011)– 1999 (World Champions), 2003 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Nathan Grey (2003–2011)– 1999 (World Champions) and 2003 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Ben McCalman (2015–2016)– 2011 and 2015 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Sean McMahon (2017–present) – 2015 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Wycliff Palu (2016–2017)– 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Joe Roff (2005–2006)– 1999 (World Champions) and 2003 World Cup
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Craig Wing (2010–2013)– Australian Rugby League international
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg Colin Yukes – 2003 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of England.svg James Haskell (2011–2012)– 2011 World Cup
Flag of England.svg George Kruis (2009–present)– 2015 World Cup, 2019 World Cup
Flag of England.svg Geoff Parling (2017–2018)– 2012 British and Irish Lions
Flag of Fiji.svg Kele Leawere – 2003 and 2007 World Cups
Flag of Fiji.svg Nemani Nadolo – 2015 World Cup
Flag of Fiji.svg Marika Vunibaka – 1999 and 2003 World Cup
Flag of Samoa.svg Seilala Mapusua – 2007 and 2011 World Cup and 2004, 2006, 2008 Pacific Islanders
Flag of Samoa.svg Semo Sititi – 1999, 2003 and 2007 (Captain) World Cup and 2004, 2006, 2008 Pacific Islanders
Flag of Samoa.svg Alesana Tuilagi – 2007 and 2011 World Cup and 2006 Pacific Islanders
Flag of South Africa.svg Thinus Delport (2008–2010)– 2003 World Cup
Flag of South Africa.svg Jacque Fourie – 2006 and 2009 IRB Player of the Year nominee
Flag of South Africa.svg Fourie du Preez (2011–2016)– 2007 (World Champions) and 2011 World Cup
Flag of South Africa.svg Danie Rossouw – 2003, 2007 (World Champions) and 2011 World Cup
Flag of South Africa.svg Jaco van der Westhuyzen – 2003 (Captain) World Cup
Flag of South Africa.svg Kwagga Smith (2018–present)– 2019 World Cup
Flag of Tonga.svg Pierre Hola – 2003 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of Tonga.svg Hale T-Pole – 2007 World Cup
Flag of Tonga.svg Sione Tu'ipulotu – 1999 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of the United States.svg Todd Clever – 2003, 2007 and 2011 World Cup; former USA captain
Flag of the United States.svg Mike Hercus (2008–2009)– 2003 and 2007 World Cup
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Shane Williams – 2003, 2007, 2011 World Cup and 2005, 2009 and 2013 Lions

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. "Framework of Entry Conditions to New League". JRFU. 1 July 2020. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  2. "Japan's new rugby union league to launch in 2022". Sports Pro Media. 18 January 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  3. "La nouvelle ligue japonaise s'appelle la Japan Rugby League One". Asie Rugby (in French). 16 July 2021. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  4. "The 4.25 million pound question". ESPN Scrum. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  5. Daily Yomiuri, 28 February 2008
  6. 1 2 "Top League to introduce new officiating system this season". The Japan Times. 21 August 2014. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015.
  7. "The new league name is Japan Rugby League One". newsdirectory3.com. 16 July 2021.
  8. "Japan to add second-tier rugby league in 2017". The Japan Times. 19 August 2016. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.