Sunday, September 2, 2012


RiJ has been working back through the history of Japan tests and this week looks at the inaugural ARFU Asian Rugby Championship in 1969. Meanwhile, the Japan U20s are having to go through qualification for the IRB JWRT in HK at the moment. RiJ also tries to make some sense of the changes set to beset TL from the 2013-14 season

Enjoy the read.

Ian McDonnell lives and works in Japan. He can be contacted at


  • Japan Test Match & Player History Project: 1969 Asia Rugby Championship
  • IRB JWRT 2013: Asia Qualification
  • Top league Changes

The Japan Test Match & Player History Project

For nine years now RiJ has been documenting Japanese rugby across various levels of the game. More recently, however, RiJ has recognised the need to accurately document the history of Japanese test match rugby and the players that have represented Japan down through the years. With this in mind, RiJ has embarked on a project to write the history of Japanese international rugby, detail every test that Japan has played and profile every player that has represented Japan.

The 1969 ARFU Asian Rugby Championship

NB: ARFU and A5N websites refer to this tournament as the Asian Rugby Football Tournament (ARFT), whereas Wikipedia uses the Asian Rugby Championship (ARC).

From 14-16 December 1968 eight Asian Unions, including Japan, South Korea, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Ceylon (name changed to Sri Lanka in 1972) and Thailand met with the outcome being the establishment of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) on 15 December 1968. Another outcome of the get-together was the setting up of a pan-Asia rugby tournament, the ARFU Asian Rugby Championship.

The inaugural ARFU Asian Rugby Championship was held in Tokyo from 8-16 March 1969 with hosts Japan along with South Korea, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong and Thailand the five participating countries and regions. The second Championship was held in Bangkok in January 1970 after which the tournament was held biannually through to the nineteenth and final edition in 2004. The ARC evolved into the HSBC Asian Five Nations from 2005 with the original ARC trophy now contested in the Division 1 competition.

In a round robin format Japan won all four of their games to win the inaugural tournament. South Korea finished runner-up and Hong Kong took third place. In an interesting twist, the South Korea versus Thailand game had to be cancelled due to heavy snow. Retrospectively, this match against Hong Kong was later given official test match status by the JRFU with caps awarded accordingly in Japanese statistics, however, Japan played as Japan XV in the other three games.

Japan XV 82 d Thailand 8, 8 March 1969, Chichibu, Tokyo. (Japan Game No.56)

Japan 24 d Hong Kong 22. Sunday, 09 March 1969, Chichibu, Tokyo. (Test No.27, Japan Game No.57)

Japan XV 62 d The Republic of China 0, 15 March 1969, Chichibu, Tokyo. (Japan Game No.58)

Japan XV 23 d Korea 5, 16 March 1969, Chichibu, Tokyo. (Japan Game No.59)

In what was to be the only test of the year, in test number twenty-seven, Japan were coached by Tetsunosuke Onishi who as the eighth national coach was in his third year of what would be five straight years in the job. Toyota outside centre Masayoshi Ozaki as the seventeenth national captain continued in the role in what was his fifth and final test with four of those as captain.

In the first ever test between Japan and Hong Kong played in boggy melting snow at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo, the hosts were lucky to come up with a last gasp win thanks to a late try from left wing Yoshihiro Sakata. Earlier in the match, Hong Kong jumped out to a handy lead only for two tries from right wing Tadayuki Ito to tie things up. However, the visitors scored two further first half tries to take a 16-11 lead into the break.

Ito scored his third try in the 16th minute of the second half which was converted by Toyota fullback Katsuji Mantani while Sakata touched down for the first of his double in the 21st minute while two Hong Kong penalties kept their noses in front 22-21 into the closing stages of the game. However, Sakata saved the day late in proceedings with his second try to give Japan the win.

In the backs, Sakata, inside centre Akira Yokoi, Ozaki and Tadayuki Ito were the most capped players in this team all playing in their fifth test while six Japanese made their international debuts. Tokyo Sanyo loosehead prop Katsumi Miyaji earned his one and only cap in this test but he would later go on to coach the national side in eleven tests. Furthermore, lock Toshio Terai played the first of what would be 21 tests for Japan through to the final of the fifth ARC against South Korea in 1976, while 21-year-old Chuo University halfback Ryo Imazato as the youngest man in this team would eventually play 23 tests for Japan, six as captain and would also coach Japan in one test against Cambridge University in 1979.

IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2013 Asian Qualifiers

Asian qualification for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2013 will be held at the Kings Park Sports Ground in Hong Kong from Wednesday 25 July to Sunday 5 August 2012.

The JWRT is an under twenty tournament, however, players taking part in the qualifiers are aged under nineteen in order to qualify as under twenty in 2013.

Game 1: Japan U19 v South Korea U19

Date: Sunday 29 July 2012
Kick-off: 5:00 PM local Hong Kong time

Game 2: Japan U19 v Thailand U19

Date: Wednesday 01 August 2012
Kick-off: 5:00 PM local Hong Kong time

Game 3: Japan U19 v Hong Kong U19

Date: Saturday 04 August 2012
Kick-off: 6:45 PM local Hong Kong time



Major Changes to Top League from the 2013-14 Season

On 18 July 2012, the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) and the Japan Rugby Top League (TL) organisers announced some significant changes to the format of the structure and season of TL from 2013-14. The 2013-14 season will be the eleventh season of the premier corporate rugby league in Japan after kicking off back in 2003-4 with twelve teams.

The major changes are:

Participating teams will be increased from 14 to 16 teams.

The league will be divided into two stages.

In Stage One, one particularly interesting change is that the 16 teams will be divided into two pools of 8 teams. The teams that finish one through 12 in the up-coming 2012-13 season automatically qualify, the teams that finish thirteenth and fourteenth play the teams that finish fourth and third respectively in the 2013 Top Challenge (TC) series, the TL qualifying series for regional leagues, to determine two places while these 14 teams will be joined by the two sides that finish first and second in TC. Stage One will run from late August to late October with the eight teams in each pool playing every team in the same pool once on a round robin basis.

Pool A

Pool B













TL13 v TC4

TL14 v TC3



In Stage Two, the sixteen teams will again be divided into two groups of eight teams depending on the order they finish in Stage One. Group A will consist of the eight teams that finished first through fourth in each pool in Stage One while Group B will be made of the eight teams that finished fifth through eighth in each pool. To add motivation for the teams to finish in as high a position as possible in Stage One, for Stage Two, four bonus points (BP) will be given to the teams that finish first in each pool in the first stage, while the two teams that finish second will get three BPs, teams that finish third will get two BPs and teams that finish fourth will get one BP. Meanwhile, all eight teams in Group B will start Stage Two with one BP. Stage Two will run from December through to late January.

Group A

Group B

1st Pool A, 4 BPs

5th Pool A, 1 BP

1st Pool B, 4 BPs

5th Pool B, 1 BP

2nd Pool A, 3 BPs

6th Pool A, 1 BP

2nd Pool B, 3 BPs

6th Pool B, 1 BP

3rd Pool A, 2 BPs

7th Pool A, 1 BP

3rd Pool B, 2 BPs

7th Pool B, 1 BP

4th Pool A, 1 BP

8th Pool A, 1 BP

4th Pool B, 1 BP

8th Pool B, 1 BP

Top League Play-off Series: The teams that finish first through fourth in Group A in Stage Two will progress to the Top League Play-off Series to determine the overall TL champion for the season. in the semi-finals, first will play fourth and second play third with the two winners meeting in the final. In addition, these four sides automatically qualify for the National Championship (NC). The Play-off series will take place in February.

Wildcard Tournament: The 8 teams that finish fifth through twelfth (that is, fifth to eighth in Group A and first to fourth in Group B) will play-off in the Wildcard Tournament to with the two teams that make it to the final gaining admission to the NC. The Wildcard Tournament will take place in February at the same time as the Play-off series is happening.

Top League Promotion and Relegation Series: The three teams that finish thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth overall (that is, fifth, sixth and seventh in Group B) will have a one-off play-off with the teams that finish fourth, third and second in TC to maintain their places in TL for the following season.

Automatic Relegation and Promotion: Over the previous ten seasons of TL the two teams that finish last and second last were automatically relegated with the two highest placed teams in TC gaining promotion to take their places. However, from the 2013-14 season only the last placed finisher will be relegated with the top placed team in TC being promoted.

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