The Japan Rugby Top League is to be expanded and a new two-stage format put in place starting from 2013, league officials announced Wednesday.
Japan Rugby Football Union chairman Tatsuzo Yabe said the league would increase to 16 teams from next year, in part to attract fans ahead of 2019 when Japan will host the Rugby World Cup. Yabe also said that the new two-stage format would help teams remain motivated for the entire season and would help the national team become more competitive.
The new format sees the top 12 finishers from the 2012-2013 season, which kicks off on Aug. 31, automatically assured of a place in the new league. They will be joined by the top two regional (or second division) teams.
Meanwhile, the teams finishing 13th and 14th in the Top League will play the third- and fourth-placed regional teams to determine the final two spots.