The Hidden Strength of Japanese Rugby

It is straightforward to despise Europe due to its powerful Six Nations and clubs that attract top players from around the world. They are viewed with suspicion, and when they suggest good things, few trust them. Japan, on the other hand, is the unrecognized wolf, quietly working toward becoming a rugby powerhouse. In 1995, they were far from the top, but they have steadily improved.

The Top League, funded by major corporations, allowed Japan to enhance its national team by recruiting overseas players. The league made various changes to improve the national side, and now Eddie Jones is helping them to make strides. In 2012-2015, Japan notably defeated South Africa, Wales, and Italy, and their national team became a legitimate force in Test rugby.

The addition of the Sunwolves to Super Rugby, however, did not go as planned, and the Top League’s schedule changes also created challenges. The presence of Japanese teams in Super Rugby started to impact Australia and South Africa as players chose Japan over Super Rugby. The Top League expanded and changed its name to League One with more game agreements with Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby.

The shift towards Japanese rugby is also evident in players like Richie Mo’unga and others leaving Super Rugby for Japan. Japanese clubs are increasingly attracting players from Super Rugby, leading to concerns about the future of the sport in Australia and New Zealand. Japan is making strategic moves and getting favorable deals from the Unions, while leaving the traditional powers in a difficult position.

The article hints at potential future scenarios, such as all Japanese clubs playing Super Rugby teams during the mid-season break. There are also concerns about the impact on games played in Australia and New Zealand, and the potential loss of interest among local fans. Overall, the article illustrates the significant changes and challenges in international rugby, with Japan emerging as a rising force in the sport.