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Rugby in Japan looks to enter a new era on Saturday when Suntory takes on Kobe Steel in the first game of the new Top League.

Replacing the traditional company championship, the new professional league will see the top 12 corporate-backed teams play in a league format with the top eight moving on to play in a knockout tournament for the Microsoft Cup, while at the other end of the table the 11th and 12th teams will automatically be relegated along with the loser of a playoff between the ninth and 10th teams, to be replaced by the top teams in the East Japan, Kansai and Kyushu leagues.

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