Scotland’s Stuart McInally, center, celebrates after scoring a try during the Autumn International match between Scotland and Japan at the BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday Nov. 20, 2021. (PA via AP)
WELLINGTON–Japan’s new-look professional rugby competition will launch next month with bold ambitions to win not only a domestic but a global audience, to attract the world’s best players and to expand the sport’s foothold in Asia.
Lotte Corporation president Genichi Tamatsuka, a former college rugby player who is now one of Japan’s most influential business leaders, has been appointed to run Japan League One, which kicks off Jan. 7 with competition among 24 teams across three divisions.
The league has the financial backing of corporate heavyweights such as Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Daiwa Securities Group and HITO-Communications. Team owners are a directory of Japan’s largest corporations: Panasonic, Toshiba, Kobe Steel and Toyota among them.
Tamatsuka said League One was inspired by the success on home soil of the Japan national team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Japan became the first Asian nation to host the quadrennial tournament and the first to reach the World Cup quarterfinals, beating Ireland and Scotland in the group stage.