Brodie Retallick | Big stars, small crowds: Japan’s unique, unloved rugby scene

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Brodie Retallick

Japan 2019 RWC mascot (File)

Sparse crowds for Japan’s Top League, where giants of the game play alongside amateurs for the pride of major companies, have triggered moves towards a fully professional league as Japan gears up to host Asia’s first World Cup.

Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams, George Gregan are just some of the luminaries who have plied their trade in Japan, picking up generous pay cheques.

The trend shows no sign of stopping, with All Black captain Kieran Read, fellow New Zealander Brodie Retallick and Australian scrum-half Will Genia among a number of players heading to Japan after the World Cup.

Wallaby fly-half Christian Lealiifano abandoned the captaincy of the ACT Brumbies after receiving an offer he said was “too hard to turn down” from Ichikawa-based NTT Communications.

The Japanese league attracts such top talent — often players approaching the twilight of their careers — because the seasons are short and less physically demanding.

The higher salaries help too. All Black legen

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