The crowds in Japan currently, are setting high standards. Figures that make most Super Rugby sides shudder in jealousy have supported Sunwolves and Japan Top League attendance figures in 2020.
That is conclusive, figures of 18,000 for the Sunwolves v Chiefs clash and some phenomenal numbers over the opening weeks of Japan Top League. 116,000 rugby fans watched the first round of the 2020 JPL season, with continued support for teams right across the Asian nation.
Those numbers follow on from the hugely popular 2019 Rugby World Cup, and is a reinforcement of the selection of Japan as a host nation. The game of rugby is ‘the place to be’ and that standard can certainly play a positive part in the near future of the sport in Japan.
With one season, followed by another Japan Top League competition – to correct for the loss of the abandoned 2019 season – fans have a wealth of choice. And the proof is in images like those below (courtesy of the Kubota Spears).
— クボタスピアーズ (@Kubota_Spears) February 12, 2020
They can follow the JPL, University rugby (that is hugely popular too) and the last Super Rugby season for the Sunwolves. They will savour and devour it all. And will share their love with friends and colleagues, to help grow the sport as a whole.
Sunwolves and Japan Top League attendance setting high standard
Chichibunomiya Stadium is the home for the Sunwolves, and has been since that club’s inception in 2015. And the ‘Wolves fanbase seems to have grown and matured to set high standards. The attendance figures, and especially the crowd enthusiasm has an affect on visiting teams.
Losing to the Chiefs is nothing to be embarrassed over. The Waikato based team is undefeated, after beating the title holders, the Crusaders, a week earlier. Yet matching your team standards against the best is one way to improve. Matching Sunwolves and Japan Top League attendance would see Japan ‘top of the table’.
On Friday night at Eden Park, the Blues could reach a figure well under 10,000 spectators. The Hurricanes’ first home game on Saturday saw even less than that, so in terms of popularity, Japanese fans are proving to be setting high standards in attendance.
That support might be tested for the Sunwolves soon though, as they travel for the next two rounds. Away to Australian conference neighbours the Reds, and visiting the Napier and the Hurricanes franchise. They then return to Japan for a home match in Osaka. Taking the game across the nation; round one in Fukuoka, with the balance of matches in Tokyo and one fixture in their Singapore base on May 2 [round 14].
Final season yes but, Japan fans are not going to let that be an end to their desire to enjoy watching the sport.
Domestic competition more than able to satisfy demand
With many of the world’s leading players running out for corporate teams, it is not a ‘lack of supply’. In fact, 16 teams are finding that their matches are well attended, across the board.
One innovation that has been favourable in 2020, are successive games scheduled at one ground. As an example, in round two, Mitsubishi Sagamihara v Canon was followed by the Suntory v NTT Communications game, both at Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo. A fantastic innovation that continues over each round, to the benefit of all fans.
Sunwolves and, Japan Top League attendances are benefitting from this increased attention and the improved options offered. Not to mention, the high-quality matches and high standard of games played.
— J SPORTSラグビー公式 (@jsports_rugby) February 15, 2020
This weekend, results saw the JPL again reach a huge audience. Local television stations like J SPORTS support the league, as well as the thousands of attending fans who enjoyed victories for the leading teams. This included some high-scoring fixtures, including a 46-27 win for the Wild Knights (see above).
— ShiningArcs_official (@ShiningArcs) February 15, 2020
BREAKING NEWS: British and Irish Lions could play Brave Blossoms
To compliment to spectacular 2020 fixtures list for Japan, the future could include one of the most well-loved sides in rugby. Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland; who is the 2021 Lions head coach for their tour of South Africa, has let slip that potential opponents are being lined up prior to the trip.
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland confirms that Japan could be in line to face the famed touring team before they head to South Africa next yearhttps://t.co/0YhSHty1JE
— Kyodo News | Japan (@kyodo_english) February 15, 2020
He told media “We are talking to two or three parties, the Barbarians, New Zealand Maori and Japan”, which would be a coup for JRFU. It would be the first game ever against the British and Irish Lions by an Asian team. And certainly, recognition for the dramatic growth of the game over the last quarter of a century.
Still to be confirmed, but fans might still have even more to satisfy their unbridled thirst for rugby union.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images