Top League

Top League

Sports League
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Top League

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The Top League is a professional rugby union league created by the Japan Rugby Football Union to drive up the overall standard and popularity of the sport in the country and improve the results of the Japan national rugby union team. The first season was 2003-04 and featured 12 teams. From the 2006-07 season, the league was expanded to include 14 teams like SANZAR's then Super 14 and France's Top 14.

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. Many full-time foreign professionals (mainly from Australia and New Zealand) have played in the Top League, notably Tony Brown and George Gregan.

Major Developments and Rule Changes

  • From the 2008-09 season, three foreign players will be allowed on the field at one time, one more than previously allowed. In addition to the three foreigners, one member of an Asian union, such as South Koreans Kim Kwang Mo (Sanyo Wild Knights) and Choi Ki Joon (Fukuoka Sanix Blues), will be allowed to take the field. From the 2009-10 season one of the three must have played for Japan or be eligible to do so. (). Video referee decisions will be introduced in this season's Microsoft Cup.

  • From the 2007-08 season a timekeeping system independent of the referee was introduced.
  • From the 2006-07 season the league was expanded from 12 to 14 teams.

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