Top League playoffs heating up

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman
The Japanese Top League reaches its conclusion this weekend, with plenty of Aussies featuring in action.

While it might not be the last match for a handful of Aussies in Japan, with a round of relegation playoffs still to unfold next weekend but the Top League title will be claimed on Sunday.

Wallabies backrower Ben McCalman is likely to feature in the Panasonic Wild Knights side that contests the title match, while flyhalf Berrick Barnes is under an injury cloud after missing the past two matches with a groin injury.

Before the ultimate winners are decided, the final rankings for the bottom eight teams will be confirmed.

Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley will start for the Ricoh Black Rams, coming off their first victory in eight matches, facing the Coca-Cola West Red Sparks.

Foley had his best game of the season for the Black Rams in their victory, earning man of the match honours, and will be hoping to replicate that from the starting 10 spot again.

Former Wallabies winger Nick Cummins will come off the bench for the Red Sparks, as they also look to add to their sole win of the year.

Both the Red Sparks and the Black Rams will be playing in next weekend’s relegation matches, against teams from the Japanese Division one competition.

Capped Wallaby Sam Norton-Knight will start at fullback for the NEC Green Rockets against the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in a battle to avoid last place.

Both sides will feature in the relegation round next weekend.

Mark Gerrard will start at flyhalf for the Toyota Industries Shuttles in their 11th place play off against the Suntory Sungoliaths.

Gerrard’s side has avoided the danger of relegation after a win in the first week of playoffs kept them out of the bottom four.


The European tournaments enter their final pool rounds this weekend, with quarter-final spots on the line.

Jesse Mogg will start at fullback for Montpellier as they look to cement their knockout spot against the undefeated Harlequins on Saturday morning (AEDT), while former Wallabies back Nic White will start at scrumhalf.

James Horwill won’t feature in the Harlequins side for the game.