AAP Rugby

Japanese rugby looms for Genia, Cooper

By AAP Newswire

Veteran Wallabies playmaking duo Will Genia and Quade Cooper will join Japan's Kintetsu Liners following this year's Rugby World Cup.

The Melbourne Rebels duo, who also played Super Rugby together in Queensland for the Reds, are the latest top players to head to Japan to play club rugby after the country hosts the World Cup.

The Liners, who play in Japan's second-tier Top Challenge League, said halfback Genia will link up with the club after the World Cup, but five-eighth Cooper, who was not named in the Wallabies' Rugby Championship squad, could move to Japan as soon as September.

Japan's domestic league season will begin in January 2020, which is later than usual due to the World Cup, which starts on September 20.

"My aim is to do my best and, through my play, I would like to make this the number one team in Japan," Genia, 31, said in a statement on the club's website.

The Liners, who are based near Osaka, have never won Japan's Top League competition since it started in 2004 but did win the amateur All-Japan Championship three times between 1966-1974.

"I will work hard to take the team back to Top League," added Cooper.

"When we reach the Top League, then I want to contribute more again at that stage.

"I want to challenge rugby in Japan, and I can still contribute on the pitch."

Genia earned his 100th cap for Australia against England in November and is set to be a key member of Michael Cheika's World Cup squad.

He has captained Australia on four occasions and has also excelled in Super Rugby, for the Reds from 2007-2015 before joining French side Stade Francais after the last World Cup in 2015.

He returned to Super Rugby for the 2018 season, joining the Rebels for two seasons.

Cooper enjoyed a positive start to his lone season with the Rebels but suffered a slump in form, potentially prompting the end of his 70-Test career.

Fellow Wallaby David Pocock will also return to Japan in 2020 and it is not just Australian players who have been enticed to Japanese rugby next season.

All Blacks Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick and Ryan Crotty will also be heading to Japan, along with South African loose forward Duane Vermeulen.