Two of the biggest stars of Japan’s Top League competition, England’s George Kruis and Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw, believe their hosts can pull off a safe and successful Olympics this July and August, continuing the legacy of Rugby World Cup 2019.
World Rugby sees the Rugby World Cup and rugby sevens at the Tokyo Olympics as a two-pronged approach to expanding the game in Japan and across Asia.
Kruis and Laidlaw, two players with experience playing in Japan for their nations and now for Top League club teams, share that vision.
“I think it is brilliant to have more top level rugby coming to Japan with the Olympics,” former Scotland captain Laidlaw told World Rugby.
“I think you will see some awesome players coming over… It is very exciting, (with a), short and fast style, which I think the Japanese people will enjoy watching.”
The undoubted success of Rugby World Cup 2019, both on and off the field, spurred Kruis and Laidlaw to sign with Top League clubs, alongside some of the sport’s other top players, including New Zealand’s two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett.
“I came (to Japan) because of the World Cup and the fact that they put on such a good show, that they are clearly interested in building rugby here with quality players and quality coaches,” said second-row Kruis whose Panasonic Wild Knights play in the Top League final on Sunday.
Kruis credits Panasonic and the Top League for running a successful domestic competition this year despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After delaying the start of the season, only one Top League fixture wasn’t completed because of COVID-19 regulations and with the players performing in a bubble, the campaign has been a success.
“It has been class and a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” said Kruis.
This experience of Top League and how Japanese authorities handled the impact of Typhoon Hagibis during Rugby World Cup 2019, leads to confidence that the Olympics will be another success.
“I thought they absolutely nailed that (Rugby World Cup 2019),” said Kruis, who reached the final with England.
“There were a couple of curveballs, with the big storm, but they sorted that out very efficiently.”
“If any country can make sure that everything is in place then it is Japan. They are regimented, they are on it and they graft very hard.”
Laidlaw, who captained Scotland against Japan at RWC 2019 agrees.
“It is one of the better countries for the Olympics to be held in,” said Laidlaw.
“The way they have handled the pandemic so far has been excellent. People are sensible and follow the rules so I don’t think there would be too many safer places in the world to host the Games at the moment.”
The Top League final takes place in Tokyo on 23 May and will be contested by Wild Knights and Suntory Sungoliath, who include Barrett in their ranks.