Japan's Top League continues to add big names despite Covid-19 hit

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Alex Goode in action for Saracens against Northampton Saints on 29 February 2020.
Alex Goode in action for Saracens against Northampton Saints on 29 February 2020.
David Rogers/Getty Images

England fullback Alex Goode last week became the latest in a long-line of international stars to join side in Japan's Top League.

Register your interest for the British & Irish Lions tickets in South Africa 2021

South Africa's Malcolm Marx and Makazole Mapimpi, who lifted the Webb Ellis trophy as Asia hosted the tournament for the first time last year, New Zealand flyhalf Beauden Barrett and Australia centre Samu Kerevi have also signed deals to feature in the 16-team top-flight.

Goode has signed a one-year loan deal with NEC Green Rockets as has Saracens team-mate George Kruis with Panasonic Wild Knights after the English side were relegated for salary cap breaches.

According to one agent, Japan will continue to be attractive to the world's best especially with the lower impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the country's outfits backed by multinational corporations compared to clubs in Europe.

"They are run by companies which compared to the situation in UK and France where clubs are struggling financially since rugby has been closed down, obviously companies have been able to continue and Japan hasn't had a lockdown in the same vain as England or Australia," Jamie Coventry, who represents Brave Blossoms captain Michael Leitch, told AFP.

"The economy has been taking over, that has probably helped them to retain the players and pay them the same sort of value that they have done so in the past, but I wouldn't say it has significantly gone up, it has remained as always," he added.

More than 58 million people watched Japan beat Scotland to clinch a place in last year's World Cup quarter-finals.

Tokyo-based consultant Nicholas van Santen said the tournament caught the attention of the local public and will help the domestic league grow.

"Among Japanese rugby fans there is a far greater awareness and appreciation of Northern Hemisphere talent," he told AFP.

"The World Cup has shown Japan to be arguably the largest domestic rugby market in the world in terms of its addressable audience," he added.

This season's top-flight was stopped in March as New Zealander Joel Everson tested positive for cocaine.

Next term's competition will be the final in its current format with plans to increase the amount of teams and create three-tiers of competition with sides aligned to cities or areas while keeping their sponsors.

"If the Top League can still offer decent money to players moving forward, its attractiveness is only sure to increase," van Santen added.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
With the Springboks losing their last two matches against Australia, how concerned are you?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Very concerned! Something is not right ...
58% - 3141 votes
I'm not worried. Every team has a bad game. The Boks will bounce back.
18% - 942 votes
It's too early to tell. Let's see how they go against the All Blacks.
24% - 1292 votes
Vote