England internationals Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje have been named as major targets for heavy-spending Japanese Top League clubs.
Saracens players have only played international rugby since the north London club was relegated from the Gallagher Premiership for breaching the league’s salary cap regulations.
While those players managed to help England to the Autumn Nations Cup last year, many of them have struggled in the opening two round of the Six Nations Championship, likely due to their lack of game time.
A number of Saracens players left the club last season, with the likes of Liam Williams returning to the Scarlets, while promising young England international joined Bristol Bears on loan for the season.
2017 British and Irish Lion George Kruis signed a contract with Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights, while his former Saracens teammate Alex Goode joined the NEC Green Rockets.
Top League Chairman Osamu Ota was speaking to The Telegraph and indicated that he would like to see more Saracens players plying their trade in Japan.
“We have George Kruis and we also have Alex Goode at another team. They are current international players for England which is a great thing for us.
“In addition to them, if we can have Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell in the future in our league that would be a great thing for us. We also have Greig Laidlaw. Those European players are very popular in Japan.”
The lure of Japan
There is no shortage of star power already playing in the Top League, with former All Blacks and Wallabies captains Kieran Read and Michael Hooper playing for Toyota Verblitz, while Beauden Barrett plays for Suntory Sungoliath.
Looking forward to my first start for @sungoliath in the Japan Rugby Top League this weekend!
— Beauden Barrett (@beaudenbarrett) February 19, 2021
With player salaries being slashed worldwide due to the ongoing pandemic, it would not be unlikely to see more of the sport’s biggest names sign with a Japanese club for a sizeable payday.
English players currently must play for an English club if they want to be chosen for the national team, but the three-month long Top League season could persuade some of the country’s biggest stars to sign on for short-term contracts next season.