The following individuals were active throughout the weekend: Brodie Retallick, Shannon Frizell, Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett, Sam Cane, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Faf de Klerk, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, and Pieter-Steph du Toit. Only a few weeks ago, everyone was preparing to begin the Rugby World Cup final in Paris. Where exactly are they now? One hint: none of them participated in the preliminary phase of the Champions Cup.
Intriguing Rugby Dynamics
In the same vein, the following is an additional examination question.
Over the weekend, which of the following rugby matches drew the largest crowd? Racing 92 versus Harlequins, Leinster versus La Rochelle, Saracens versus Bulls, or Kubota Spears Funabashi? Which is superior: Tokyo Bay or Tokyo Sungoliath? The premier cross-border tournament hosted by European organizations is not the only spectacle in town.
Given that the corresponding responses are Japan and d), a minimum of 18,500 spectators attended the opening round matches in Japan Rugby League One (JRLO), in contrast to less than 10,000 at the futuristic Parisian stadium of Racing. Dozens of international players have already voted with their feet (and purses) amidst the controversy surrounding Henry Arundell’s decision to remain in France instead of returning to England. All countries, except France, are confronted with an intensifying struggle to retain their most talented athletes.
Impact on English Players and Coaches Abroad
Thus, despite the subdued optimism in England after Quins, Exeter, Sale, and Bristol defeated Top 14 opponents over the weekend in the Premier League, the long-term outlook is genuinely intriguing. Could the French league develop into an irresistible attractor, causing an exponential increase in the number of top English players who cross the Channel? Alternatively, the compensation for a shorter, more intense six-month season in Japan could entice many European-based talents.
Consider the current world player of the year, Savea. He has agreed to serve on a “sabbatical” with the Kobe Steelers in 2024 instead of competing in Super Rugby. Two tries on his debut for his new club have already provided an early indication of the player’s enthusiasm for his new surroundings.
The Wallaby quartet of Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Quade Cooper, Charles Piutau of Tonga, Liam Williams of Wales, and Nathan Hughes of England are also in Japan. Kieran Crowley, Dave Rennie, Steve Hansen, Wayne Smith, Wayne Pivac, Robbie Deans, and Todd Blackadder are all active coaches in Japan. Meanwhile, Eddie Jones is expected to be rehired as the national head coach by the Japan Rugby Football Union board this week, for better or worse, more attention, interest, and headlines.
League One’s Growing Influence
Hajime Shoji, the chief operating officer of JRLO, and chairman Genichi Tamatsuka are also speaking a decent game. They boast that live events will attract over one million spectators this season; the number was 450,000 in year one and 750,000 in year two. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and a decline in local interest following the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Tamatsuka maintains an optimistic outlook on the future of League One, considering both the local and global levels.
“Our objective is to establish ourselves as a premier league.” Since Asia is a hub for economic expansion, it has tremendous potential. The caliber of the games in Japan has generated considerable satisfaction among players, and many had positive experiences throughout the 2019 World Cup. Japan is an exceptionally secure nation, and the cuisine is phenomenal… However, rugby’s quality is also of the utmost importance and has been steadily rising.
Strategic Initiatives and Global Expansion Plans
The commercial objective is to ensure the long-term viability of the new league model “within five years” and to increase its appeal. In the past, parent corporations historically supporting rugby in Japan contributed 100% of revenue. However, in the future, increased revenue from broadcasting, marketing, and ticketing deals is anticipated to increase that proportion to 50%, with local Japanese talent also benefiting. Tamatsuka states, “Our goal with the new league was to strengthen and improve the national team so that it could rank among the top eight teams in the world.” “We appear to be progressing on the right track.”
By a memorandum of understanding with New Zealand Rugby, additional initiatives will include cross-border matches between four Japanese clubs and the Chiefs and Blues in February. This week, they signed a new agreement to broadcast League One games in South Africa and other interested territories. Tamatsuka states, “At this time, we have no intention of sending a team into Super Rugby.” “On the contrary, our objective is to broaden our prospects of competing in the future against leagues outside Japan, including those from Europe.”
Rugby’s Changing Landscape
Quite intriguing. Therefore, would Owen Farrell be welcomed if he ever considered visiting Japan? “He would be exceedingly held.
“Extremely, extremely welcome,” Tamatsuka exclaims at the instant. “Many of our highly skilled foreign employees are generating value within Japan.” This precisely matches the objective of the primary companies in their new business models and heightens their desire for additional assistance. But we already have so many outstanding athletes. Converting this information to a younger audience and non-rugby enthusiasts is difficult.
The forces of change are present. It is not in the long-term interests of any party for a single dominant league to hoard up all of the world’s talent. Still, parochial companies, loss-making clubs, and minimal overseas interest have no future either. Who would blame Farrell or Maro Itoje if, in the coming years, they desired to rejuvenate their bodies, minds, and bank accounts by spending a season or two in Tokyo?