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It’s back on the field for USA captain Todd Clever as he and Suntory Sungoliath prepare for another season in the Japan Top League.

Clever is in an interesting competition for playing time. Katsu Nishikawa remains a key leader on the squad at loose forward, and Head Coach Eddie Jones has also brought in former Australia star George Smith, and former Springbok Danie Roussouw.

“We’re definitely a stacked team, so it should be a good year ahead,” Clever told “There will definitely be competition in the back row. I am not sure how Eddie Jones will run with it, whether he’s cycling some people through or picking the best each week. He definitely has some choices – some mobility and some beast strength. We’ll see where I fit in.”

Still, with a season under his belt, and an outstanding World Cup where he was captain of the Eagles on his resume, Clever now has more of a leadership role.

“My leadership role is obviously not speaking because my Japanese isn’t very good; it’s in doing,” he said. “They want me here because they want a mobile loose forward whop’s a ball runner and good on defense. That’s my job, week-in, week-out that’s what I do.”

Suntory won the All-Japan Championship in 2010-2011, and is looking to repeat that performance. They open their league season against the Panasonic October 29. Playing under the Sanyo name, Panasonic lost to Suntory in last year’s final.

Highlights from last season's All-Japan final. Suntory in yellow, Clever wearing #6. Check out his slick hands at about 1:50.