• Kyodo

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The top three teams in the Top League and the winner of the university championship will compete under a tournament format at the rugby national championship in January next year, the Japan Rugby Football Union said Thursday.

The Top League champions will play the university champions, while the second and third-placed TL teams will face off in the semifinals at Hanazono Rugby Ground in Higashi-Osaka on Jan. 21.

The winners will meet in the final at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Jan. 29.

With the Sunwolves playing in the Super Rugby season that normally starts in February, the JRFU had been considering reformatting the competition, with the gap in ability between university and TL teams also cited as a factor.

The national championship was held as a one-off final last year for the first time in 19 seasons, owing to the Super Rugby schedule and Japan’s involvement in the Rugby World Cup in England.

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