Top League: Quade Cooper's solution to Super Rugby burnout
Taking a composite Japanese team and making it travel thousands-upon-thousands of kilometres to compete against the best of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa is a failed experiment.
The wretched 18-team, conference format that eventually sunk Super Rugby did no justice to Japan rugby, but Australian superstars Will Genia and Quade Cooper believe there is a workable alternative.
Rather than sending another rag-tag team of players to Australasia, SANZAAR should consider doing it the other way.
Cooper, a 70-Test Wallaby, said the Top League is now comparable to Super Rugby and teams from New Zealand and Australia should consider playing in Japan’s premier league.
Cooper and the 110-Test Wallaby Genia currently play for Japanese second-division side Kintetsu Liners.
Both said they have been blown away by the quality of the game in both the second-tier Challenge League and the Top League.
They felt Japan’s success at the 2019 World Cup, where they beat Scotland and Ireland on the way to making the quarterfinals, is evidence of the improvement.
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“A lot of the time we think of it as putting a team in from Japan to have an opportunity to compete in Super Rugby,” Cooper said in a virtual media conference to promote the Top League.
“But the competition that is very strong at the moment is the Japanese [Top] League.
“So in my mind, you would be inviting a team from Super Rugby to come over here and join into that.
“We’ve tried it the other way around. We have put the Sunwolves in [Super Rugby] and it wasn’t the best experience.
“But the fan base here [in Japan] – as Willy [Genia] alluded to – is amazing. The strength of the companies is amazing.
“The way they have set it up, the money that the companies have, everything here seems to be going in the right direction.
“I feel like at some point it has to be taken into consideration.
“Instead of sending one team from here [Japan], let’s try it the other way round.
Cooper suggested a format like the current Top League play-offs.
“You might incorporate two of the Australian teams and two of the New Zealand teams.”
He said the crowds in Top League games are comparable to the numbers of spectators in Super Rugby Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Super Rugby AU (Australia).
“They are doing something very right over here,” Cooper added.
“Australia and New Zealand should look to be a part of that.”
Genia echoed similar sentiments to the Wallaby and Liners teammate.
“There’s an abundance of talent here,” Genia said.
“Japan at some point has to be incorporated into Super Rugby. We’re in the same time zone, you’ve got quality players.
“And if you look at some of the strong top league teams – Suntory, Kubota – as their rosters sit, they’d be competing with Super Rugby teams, I have no doubt.”