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Thread: Top League meets Super Rugby: bold plan to keep Japan involved

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    Top League meets Super Rugby: bold plan to keep Japan involved

    Top League meets Super Rugby: bold plan to keep Japan involved

    By Georgina Robinson
    May 15, 2020 12.02am

    Super Rugby architects would invite the best Japanese Top League teams to take part in a Super Rugby finals series under one model being considered for the competition next year.

    The teams would be the top two performers from Japan's cash-rich, corporation-owned league, which will be run concurrently with Super Rugby in the first half of next year.

    They would meet the winners of the Australia, New Zealand and South Africa-Argentina conferences in an eight-team finals series played in June or early July next year and potentially in one country if coronavirus travel restrictions are still in place.

    The model is one of a number being considered for the flagging southern hemisphere competition, which is having to rethink its original plans for a 14-team round robin structure in the post-coronavirus economy.

    All models also assume the SANZAAR member unions will honour their agreements to stick with Super Rugby which, despite SANZAAR's insistence, is not the done deal some are insisting it is.

    The most likely fallback, given the likely prohibitive cost of international travel and internal pressures in Australia and New Zealand to ditch South Africa and Argentina, is that the competition will be run as three domestic conferences, using the current countries, with a cross-border finals series.

    But a variation of that model would see the likes of the Kobelco Steelers and Suntory Sungoliath, or the Panasonic Wild Knights, take on the top Super Rugby sides.

    Ongoing Japanese involvement appears high on the list of priorities for Australia and New Zealand, most likely because it is a large commercial market in a similar time zone where rugby is on the rise.

    Sources also indicated that, despite the Sunwolves' impending exit from Super Rugby, there is still significant interest from sections of the Japanese game for the Asian nation to stay involved.

    Test coach Jamie Joseph wants to keep a strong pathway between the Top League and the Brave Blossoms, sources told the Herald, and the Japan Rugby Football Union's ultimate goal still seems to be inclusion in the Rugby Championship.

    Sources from all parties told the Herald there were too many moving parts to make a Top League link with Super Rugby a certainty, despite there being keen interest.

    A SANZAAR board meeting next week is expected to confirm the cancellation of the July incoming Test tours, which would have seen Ireland play two games in Australia, Wales head to New Zealand, Scotland travel to South Africa, France to Argentina and England to Japan.

    The administrative body is also expected to give an update on 2021 discussions, although what light it can shed is unclear. There is great uncertainty about what travel will be allowed and when next year.

    Rugby Australia remains preoccupied with costing this year's competition and getting it up and running by the first weekend in July. It has not yet taken a concrete plan to broadcast partner Foxtel, or issued the Western Force with an invitation to join. RA will approach the JRFU in coming days about the Sunwolves joining, although administrators are not confident they will gain federal government approval to clear the squad to travel.

    New Zealand is further down the track and is scheduled to kick off its domestic five-team competition on June 13.

    On the Japanese side, the future shape of the Top League is again a live issue. The original 12-team, fully professional concept, based out of 2019 World Cup host cities, has been watered down to a three-division concept, including teams from the Top League, Top Challenge League and new teams that have applied to join.

    Corporations such as Panasonic, Suntory, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Ricoh and Kobelco will still own the teams, but the JRFU wants them to be professionally run. Currently they sit under the direction of a JRFU-employed Top League "commissioner".

    Despite the heavy corporate flavour in Japan's professional league, any attempt to link the country to a Super Rugby finals series would have to be sanctioned by the JRFU.

    The global calendar could help this concept fly, however. Under one model, the Super Rugby conferences would be run from February until May, with a finals series held over a few weeks in June or July.

    The Rugby Championship would be played in August and September, then the northern hemisphere Test nations would tour the south in October and the southern hemisphere nations would head north in November, as they currently do.

    Meanwhile, interim RA boss Rob Clarke will meet with players' union boss Justin Harrison and former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns on Monday.

    Harrison and Kearns want an audience with Clarke to discuss a list of assurances given to them by former RA director Peter Wiggs before his resignation last week.

    https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-u...14-p54sz1.html

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    My takeaway from that is that rugby Australia still think that everybody else in the world wants a piece of the shot duck that is super rugby.

    I bet they haven't even asked anybody North of manly whether a Japanese team would even want to open talks.

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    C'mon the

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    Thing is, we got there first.

    Force played the Wild Knights (beat 'em too). Toured to Japan and played Joseph's Wolfpack squad that was the basis of their home RWC prep.

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Another new day; another unfunded brain fart.

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    "The main difference between playing League and Union is that now I get my hangovers on Monday instead of Sunday - Tom David

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    Player cedric rainwater's Avatar
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    it would be like being rescued by the titanic

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    cider my arse

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