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Travel & Leisure

Japan rugby starts COVID-delayed season with big names, new aims

Push to turn World Cup glory into commercial success tested by pandemic

Michael Leitch, center, competes in a Top League rugby match during the 2020 season. This year's season kicks off on Feb. 20 after being delayed more than a month by the coronavirus pandemic.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan's premier rugby division kicks off a delayed season this weekend with teams and their corporate owners hoping to put the sport on the path to professionalism by turning post-World Cup popularity into greater commercial appeal.

Fans are delighted at the chance to see live top-level games after last season was cut short by COVID-19 and this year's opening was pushed back from Jan. 16, with more than 60 players and staff testing positive for the coronavirus.

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