Dream XV: The International stars of the new Japanese League

Dream XV: The International stars of the new Japanese League

The new Japanese club competition kicks off this weekend under the new name, the Japan Rugby League One.

We take a look at the international stars that will light up the tournament in the top division.


The likes of Quade Cooper, Will Genia (both Hanazono Kintetsu Liners), and Franco Mostert (MIE Honda Heat) are all set to feature in the second division of the new tournament meaning they miss out in our XV.

1. Suliasi Tolu - Panasonic Wild Knights  


The Japanese clubs have been reluctant to bring in foreign talents in the propping department, with Tongan Suliasi Tolu being one of the few imports. Craig Millar would have featured in the side had he not been capped for Japan.

 

2. Malcolm Marx - Kubota Spears


TOKYO, JAPAN - APRIL 24: Malcolm Marx of Kubota Spears is tackled by Takuma Shoji and Shogo Naka of Yamaha Jubilo during the Top League playoff tournament 2nd round between Kubota Spears and Yamaha Jubilo at Edogawa Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

World Cup-winning hooker Malcolm Marx is the pick of the hookers in the competition. Marx scored eight tries in 10 games for the Spears last season and was part of one of the best packs of the competition.

Former Highlanders and Maori All Blacks captain Ash Dixon joins the Green Rockets for this season while former Sharks and Gloucester hooker Franco Marais turns out for Ntt Docomo Red Hurricanes.

 

3. Sam Talakai - Suntory Sungoliath

Suntory Sungoliath is one of the few Japanese clubs that have invested in the propping department, signing Talakai from the Melbourne Rebels in 2018.

 

4. Patrick Tuipulotu - Toyota Verblitz

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 10: Patrick Tuipulotu of the All Blacks reacts during the International Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Fiji at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Unlike the front row, the second row is brimming with talents from abroad. All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu is a new addition to the League signing from the Blues, while Suntory has the likes of Tom Savage and Harry Hockings on their payroll. 

Former Scarlets' lock David Bulbring plies his trade at Kubota Spears along with Ruan Botha. Former Stormers lock JD Schikerling is set to lockdown in the second row alongside Tuipulotu after he was on the cusp of a Springbok call-up.

 

5. George Kruis - Panasonic Wild Knights

OSAKA, JAPAN - MARCH 14: George Kruis of Panasonic Wild Knights in action during the Top League match between NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes and Panasonic Wild Knights at Yanmar Field Nagai on March 14, 2021 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

The Welsh duo of Jake Ball (Green Rockets) and Cory Hill (Canon Eagles) are set to make their debuts in the competition while former Highlander Tom Franklin captains Kobelco Kobe Steelers. However, it is difficult to look past the former England and Lions lock George Kruis to partner Tuipulotu.

 

6. Pieter-Steph du Toit - Toyota Verblitz

Pieter-Steph Du Toit of South Africa during the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between New Zealand and South Africa at International Stadium Yokohama on 21 September, 2019 in Yokohama, Japan (Photo by Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Another new addition to the League, Pieter-Steph du Toit, is back to full fitness for his new side after another lengthy injury layoff. 

The 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year's quality is undeniable and will look to hit the ground running for Steve Hansen's side. 

He beats the likes of Blair Cowan (Black Rams), Lachlan Boshier (Shining Arcs), Tom Sanders (Sungoliath), and Whetu Douglas (Green Rockets) to a place in the side.

 

7. Kwagga Smith - Shizuoka Blue Revs

TOKYO, JAPAN - DECEMBER 15: Kwagga Smith of Yamaha Jubilo is tackled by Yuki Okada of Toyota Verblitz during the Top League Tournament 3rd place match between Toyota Verblitz and Yamaha Jubilo at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on December 15, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Even with the departure of Michael Hooper after last season, there is no shortage of openside flankers to choose from. Former All Black Matt Todd (Brave Lupus) misses out to Smith alongside former Wallaby Liam Gill (Shining Arcs).

Smith was a standout for his club last season in the no.8 jersey, but with the signing of Wallaby Isi Naisarani from the Rebels, he is likely to switch to his more favoured position on the side of the scrum. The 28-year-old enjoyed a breakout season with the Springboks in 2021 and will be out to continue that form. 

 

8. Sean McMahon - Suntory Sungoliath

Suntory Sungoliath's Australian Sean McMahon (R) celebrates after scoring a try during the Japan Rugby Top League match between Suntory Sungoliath and Shining Arcs at the Komazawa Olympic Park Stadium in Tokyo on April 11, 2021. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

McMahon returns to Sungoliath, having made his mark on the test arena for the Wallabies.

The abrasive back rower claims a spot in our team ahead of Isi Naisarani and Whetu Douglas.

 

9. Greig Laidlaw - Shining Arcs

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 06: Greig Laidlaw of NTT Communications ShiningArcs passes the ball during the Top League match between Kubota Spears and NTT Communications Shining Arcs at Edogawa Stadium on March 6, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

Like with the props, there are limited choices in the scrumhalf department, but in former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, the Shining Arcs have a real gem. 

Laidlaw enters another season in Japan, having joined the Arcs from Clermont. 

 

10. Aaron Cruden - Kobelco Kobe Steelers

HIGASHIOSAKA, JAPAN - APRIL 24: Aaron Cruden of Kobelco Steelers places the ball on the ground to kick a goal during the Top League playoff tournament 2nd round between MHI Sagamihara Dynaboars and Kobelco Steelers at Hanazono Rugby Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Higashiosaka, Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Aaron Cruden tops an impressive list of international flyhalves plying their trade in Japan. The 50-test cap All Blacks cracks our team ahead of fellow former All Black Tom Taylor (Brave Lupus) and Springbok pivot Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes). Former Hurricanes flyhalves Fletcher Smith (Green Rockets) and Otere Black (Shinings Arcs) have joined the League while former Wallaby Bernard Foley enters another season with Kubota Spears. 

 

11. Marika Koroibete - Panasonic Wild Knights

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: Marika Koroibete of the Wallabies celebrates a try which was later disallowed during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and France at AAMI Park on July 13, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Last season's champions claimed a massive coup in Marika Koroibete, who has been signed to fill the boots of Japan superstar Kenki Fukuoka who has officially retired. 

Koroibete joins his new side off the back of a superb run of form with the Wallabies. 

Vince Aso could feature on the wing or centres, too, having joined the side from the Hurricanes. 

 

12. Hadleigh Parkes - Panasonic Wild Knights

HIGASHIOSAKA, JAPAN - MAY 15: Hadleigh Parkes of Panasonic Wild Knights runs with the ball during the Top League Playoff Semi Final match between Toyota Verblitz and Panasonic Wild Knights at Hanazono Rugby Stadium on May 15, 2021 in Higashiosaka, Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

The number 12 jersey is another position with no lack of quality options. Former Wales star Hadleigh Parkes comes in ahead of former All Blacks' midfielders Ryan Crotty (Kubota Spears) and Seta Tamanivalu (Brave Lupus).

Joe Tomane (Black Rams) is another option in the midfield, having joined the Rams from Leinster back in 2020.

 

13. Samu Kerevi - Sungoliath

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 20: Samu Kerevi of the Suntory Sungoliath is tackled by Naohiro Kotaki of the Toshiba Brave Lupus during the Top League match between Toshiba Brave Lupus and Suntory Sungoliath at Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground on March 20, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Kerevi enters his second season with Suntory after scoring eight tries and assisting a further five in just eight appearances last season. The World Rugby Player of the Year Nominee in 2020 beats Springbok utility back Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) to a spot in our XV. 

 

14. Israel Folau - Shining Arcs

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Israel Folau of the Waratahs warms up during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Sunwolves at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 29, 2019 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Folau returns to rugby union after a stint in France with the Catalans Dragons. After Rugby Australia terminated his contract for his comments on social media, Folau's return won't be overly welcomed one. Still, his ability on the pitch sees him feature in our XV.

He edges Kobe Steelers' Richard Buckman and Suntory's try-scoring machine Tevita Li to a place in the side. 

 

15. Damian McKenzie - Suntory Sungoliath

New Zealand rugby player Damian McKenzie attends a photocall after a press conference to mark joining Suntory Sungoliath at Ajinomoto Stadium in the Chofu area of Tokyo on December 21, 2021. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

willie le roux - toyota verblitz, harry mallinder - black rams

Suntory have made another splash in the recruitment department, picking up All Blacks star Damian McKenzie having signed Beauden Barrett for the 2021 season.

McKenzie is listed as a utility back on the Suntory website, which indicates that we may see him feature at flyhalf and fullback for the side that finished runners-up last season.

McKenzie edges Springbok fullback, Willie Le Roux to a place in the side, and Blacks Rams' back Harry Mallinder, who joined the side from Northampton Saints.  

 
 

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