Top League Rugby – On The Go in Japan!

26 10 2007

Toshiba Brave LupusThe Japanese pro-rugby union league opens tonight with a repeat of last season’s grand final when Toshiba Brave Lupus take on Suntory Sungoliath at at Tokyo’s Chichibunomiya Stadium, an exciting game that Toshiba won.

And the 07/08 season promises to be a good one too…

Teams this year are:
Coca Cola West Red Sparks
Fukuoka Sanix Blues

IBM Big Blue
Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers
Kyuden Voltex
Kubota Spears
Mitsubishi DynaBoars

NEC Green Rockets
Ricoh Black Rams

Sanyo Wild Knights
Suntory Sungoliath
Toshiba Brave Lupus
Toyota Verblitz
Yamaha Jubilo

(word of warning on the official sites linked above – only the Sanyo Wild Knights have taken the time to have an English site… the rest are in Japanese. This very reason has made me hold the Sanyo team in high regard for a while…)
The two newly promoted teams – Mitsubishi DynaBoars and Kyuden Voltex – take on each other in the opening round.

The opening round sees:
Oct 26 (Fri) Toshiba Brave Lupus v. Suntory Sungoliath
Oct 27 (Sat) Sanyo Wild Knights v. Kubota Spears
Yamaha Jubilo v. Toyota Verblitz
Ricoh Black Rams v. IBM Big Blue
Kyuden Voltex v. Mitsubishi DynaBoars
Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers v. NEC Green Rockets
Fukuoka Sanix Blues v. Coca Cola West Red Sparks

Heavy focus will be on the opening game, where the defending champions Toshiba play host at Chichibunomiya rugby stadium to Suntory Sungoliath. Toshiba won the final last year, but with fabled coach Masahiro Kunda stepping down from the helm, and a few players either moving on or looking old, the time is ripe for another team to knock them off their perch at the top of Japanese domestic rugby.
Katsuyuki KiyomiyaEnter Suntory, stage left.
Two years ago Katsuyuki Kiyomiya from the almighty Waseda University, and the buzz around rugby circles is that he will do big things this year in Top League leading Sungoliath. But there’s a big difference between coaching at university level – even at Waseda – and coaching professionally. It could actually be argued that the success at Waseda is virtually guaranteed, as they have massive sponsorship, and get the pick of high school players year in, year out.
Still, time will tell if Kiyomiya is all he’s supposed to be.

My local team (as close to local as I can get) Toyota Verblitz finished 4th last season, and will be out for revenge against the team that finished 3rd – Yamaha Jubilo. Stephen ‘Bernie’ LarkhamKosuke Endo, the powerful winger from the national team (who scored two amazing tries in the World Cup), is a player who could make an impact overseas in the not-too-distant-future.

Lastly, the latest buzz is that Australian flyhalf Stephen Larkham will come to Japan. His deal with Edinburgh fell through, and I can guarantee that there’s a scramble by all of the top teams to land the prize of having Larkham sign with them… should make it interesting…

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4 responses

26 10 2007

Hi Don – interesting to read about rugby in Japan. There are usually a handful of ex NZ players about the place up there too. Gotta love some of the names for these teams (Fukuoka Sanix Blues sounds like a female sanitary product) 🙂

26 10 2007

I still have no idea what a ‘Verblitz’ is…
Gotta say, I am rather partial to the Wild Knights myself!

27 10 2007
Dave's Football Blog

Is Japan adopting the ELVs, or is that another year away for everyone?

27 10 2007

Still a year away…

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