ESPN Africa has announced that they have secured broadcast rights for Japan Rugby League One (Division 1). This dynamic addition to ESPN’s diverse rugby content kicked off this past weekend, promising an exhilarating viewing experience for enthusiasts. The league, featuring 25 foreign players from seven countries who participated in the 2023 Rugby World Cup, will unfold over the next six months, culminating in the finals in May 2024.

Key Springbok players, including Franco Mostert (Mie Honda Heat), Pieter Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles), Damien de Allende (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Jesse Kriel (Yokohama Canon Eagles), Cheslin Kolbe (Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath), and Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), have committed to the league. They will face formidable opponents led by renowned coaches like Steve Hansen, the Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks coach (Toyota Verblitz), Robbie Deans, a five-time Super Rugby-winning and former Wallabies coach (Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights), Frans Ludeke, a two-time Super Rugby-winning coach (Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay), Todd Blackadder (Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo), and Johan Ackerman (Urayasu DRocks), both two-time Super Rugby finalist coaches.

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN – DECEMBER 18: Faf De Klerk of Canon Eagles passes the ball during the League One match between Saitama Yokohama Canon Eagles and Kobelco Kobe Steelers (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Known for its relentless intensity, fast-paced action, and strategic finesse, the Japan Rugby League One captivates audiences with electrifying and engaging experiences in every match. The league’s vision revolves around growing the sport domestically while providing a platform to showcase its top talent on the international stage. Guided by four pillars, the league aims to create memorable experiences for fans, teams, companies, and communities.

In the league’s first division, 12 teams from across Japan compete, with six and five teams in the second and third divisions, respectively. Catering to rugby fans across the continent, ESPN will broadcast two live matches per week from Division 1 on ESPN or ESPN2, with additional repeat broadcasts for flexible viewing options. The excitement is set to build as the season progresses, leading up to the eagerly anticipated final in May 2024.

Kyle De Klerk, Director: Sports at the Walt Disney Company Africa, expressed enthusiasm about the addition, stating, “We are delighted to add the Japan Rugby League One to our programming line-up this December. Following the mass interest in the recent Rugby World Cup, our audiences can continue to follow their heroes’ progress in Japan throughout the season.”