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The Japan Rugby Football Union announced Friday that a total of 25 teams — including 12 top-division clubs — will participate in the new domestic top circuit scheduled to kick off in January 2022, reports Kaz Nagatsuka.

Sixteen teams currently compete in the Top League, which has seen its 2021 season delayed until February after several clubs were struck by COVID-19 cases. All current Top and Top Challenge League teams have applied to join the new circuit.

The new league’s first division will be divided into two conferences. Each team will play two games against opponents in the same conference and one game against opponents in the other conference during the season. The second and third divisions will have seven and six teams, respectively, and there will be promotion/relegation playoffs between the divisions.

Japan Rugby — The Rising Nation ᴴᴰ (Movie)
 | RUGBY VIDS 20
Japan Rugby — The Rising Nation ᴴᴰ (Movie) | RUGBY VIDS 20

Meanwhile, the American football community in Japan is in mourning after the death of Chuck Mills, one of the fathers of American football in Japan, at 92.

Mills worked to establish a relationship between football officials in Japan and the United States, bringing Utah State and Wake Forest to Japan for exhibition games before taking local coaches under his wing in the U.S., writes Nagatsuka. But it wouldn’t have happened without the OK from President Richard Nixon.

“Nixon wrote a letter to the NCAA, saying that (then-National Security Advisor Henry) Kissinger had just opened up relations with China, and he thought that sports was something that would help relations and that it was in America’s best interest for its young people to interact with young people in Japan,” Mills told the JT in 2015. “So if it wasn’t for Nixon, we wouldn’t have gone.”

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