New Rugby League Tournament Format Confirmed

The Japan Rugby Football Union has today announced the 25 teams that will take part in the new Japan rugby league and the format of the tournament. The new league is scheduled to begin in 2022.

25 participating teams

NEC Green Rockets, NTT Communications ShiningArcs, NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, Kamaishi Sheawaves RFC, Canon Eagles, Kyushu Electric Power Kyuden Voltex, Kintetsu Liners, Kubota Spears, Kurita Water RFC Water Gush, Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers, Coca-Cola Red Sparks, Suntory Sungoliath, Shimizu Rugby Football Club Team Blue Sharks, Chugoku Electric Power Red Regulions, Toshiba Brave Lupus, Toyota Verblitz, Toyota Industries Corporation Shuttles, Panasonic Wild Knights, Hino Red Dolphins, Honda HEAT, Mazda Blue Zoomers, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Sagamihara Dynaboars, Munakata Sanix Blues, Yamaha Jubilo, Ricoh Black Rams (in Japanese alphabetical order)

Key consideration on the tournament format

  1. Ensure high-quality rugby & evenly matched games
  2. Promoting a Host-and-Visitor model
  3. Easy-to-understand format
  4. Format to develop and evolve over time

New league’s structure at its start

The new league will consist of three divisions and be operated as an open league with yearly promotion/relegation between the divisions. 

  Division 1 Division 2 Division 3
Number of Teams 12(6/6) teams 7 teams 6 teams
Number of Matches per year 96 matches 16 matches/team 51 matches 15 matches/team for top teams 14 matches/team for bottom teams 30 matches 10 matches/team
League Format ・6 teams double Round robin in each conference (60 matches) ・Inter-conference matches  Round robin (36 matches) ・7 teams double round robin (42 matches) ・Top 4 teams round robin (6 matches) ・Bottom 3 teams round robin  (3 matches) ・6 teams double round robin (30 matches)
Method for Deciding Ranking (Regular season) By winning points   By winning points   By winning points  
Post-season Matches Qualified to cross-border Promotion/Relegation Promotion/Relegation
Number of Top Teams to be Promoted   Maximum 4 teams/year Maximum 3 teams/year
Cross-border Matches Top teams    

Timeline (TBC)

After April 2021:      New league’s operation organization to be established

June 2021:   Confirmation of the participating teams’ line-up for each conference

                   Announcement of the new league’s name and philosophy

January 2022:          New league to start

Jan-May 2022:         New league season (21 weeks)

End of May 2022:    Post-season matches (cross-border matches/promotion and relegation)

June and July, October and November, 2022: international test windows for the Japan national team

Mayumi Taniguchi, Ph.D., Chief of the Preparatory Office for New League Incorporation commented:

“Under the current uncertain circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe that it means so much to take a step toward further growth of Japan rugby. While we are in an unforeseen and constantly evolving situation, I think that sport can show flexibility to respond to the difficulties and continue to challenge – this is the spirit of rugby.

We will move along with the teams, our stakeholders and fans with the goal of creating the world’s best league. We appreciate your continued support for the last season of the Japan Rugby Top League and count on your support for the new league to be launched in January 2022.”