The 17th stop of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour saw rugby’s greatest prize, the Webb Ellis Cup, travel across Brazil with visits to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
The trophy began its tour in Rio de Janeiro, joining Rio Rugby Club and local players from Rugby e Nossa Paixao, for a training session on the world-famous Copacabana Beach. Training in the sun under the rugby posts that were erected ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, when rugby sevens made its Olympic debut, the session had a distinctly carnival feel. Rugby e Nossa Paxiao means ‘rugby is our passion’ and works with young people from local favela communities, using rugby to promote values such as respect, teamwork and solidarity in the players, skills they can continue to use into their adult life.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games undoubtedly raised the profile of the sport in Brazil and the legacy continues, with recent Nielsen research finding there to be more than 16 million fans – those who are ‘interested’ or ‘very interested’ in rugby – making Brazil the sixth largest potential rugby nation in the world. This love for the game was no more apparent than during the visit to one of Sao Paulo’s largest favela communities, Paraisópolis, where more than 100 local children took to a local football pitch to take part in a Rugby Para Todos (rugby for all) training session supported by some of Brasil Rugby’s star players from the women’s game.
Rugby Para Todos first began in 2004 to give opportunities for young people from Paraisópolis, a favela community in São Paulo, to play rugby. Since then, the project has assisted in training more than 5,000 children and adolescents in both rugby and the values of the game, in São Paulo and Rio. A number of Brazilian national team players have come through the programme in Paraisópolis and credit this as having been instrumental in their success. The Brazilian squads have had a string of impressive results over the past year, with the senior men’s team climbing to an all-time high of 24th in the World Rugby Rankings, while the women’s sevens team achieved promotion to the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2020 with an impressive victory at the recent qualifier event in Hong Kong.
Bianca Silva, Brasil Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2018, is one of the stars that came through the ranks of Rugby Para Todos in Paraisópolis and joined the Trophy Tour activity. Silva had been encouraged to attend a Rugby Para Todos session as she waited to find a school place after her family had returned to São Paulo having spent a period living in the countryside. Following a few days of rugby-related “fun and games”, she was introduced to an oval ball for the first time and as she started to learn more about it, she “fell in love with the sport”.
Silva, who plays for the Brazil women’s sevens team, is also a member of World Rugby’s ‘Try and Stop Us’ campaign, said: “The project Rio Para Todos is my family. This is where I started playing rugby at 11 years old. The project helps build strong personalities and it helps young people to learn maturity, discipline and respect.
“It was really exciting for everyone to have the Rugby World Cup trophy here. It has been fantastic to see how impactful the launch of the ‘Try and Stop Us’ campaign has been and I’m very proud to be part of it. Our ambition now is to be successful on the World Series next year and my dream is to play at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”
Women’s rugby is one of sport’s great success stories, experiencing unprecedented growth around the world, and Silva’s unstoppable qualities saw her recognised in the recently launched World Rugby campaign ‘Try and Stop Us’ which is promoting the women’s game globally. More information on the #TryAndStopUs campaign can be found at the new www.women.rugby website with content promoting #WomenInRugby including features on all 15 ‘Unstoppables’.
The tour ended at Estadio Independencia in Belo Horizonte, where fans queued for their chance to take a selfie with the Webb Ellis Cup ahead of the Brazil v Argentina XV encounter in the Sudamérica Rugby Six Nations. While Argentina XV were the winners of the match, it was apparent how far rugby in Brazil has grown and how much desire there is to keep building on their successes, with sights firmly set on reaching a Rugby World Cup in the near future.
Agustin Danza, Brasil Rugby CEO, said: “We were delighted to receive the RWC Trophy in Brazil. It’s presence here allowed us to increase rugby awareness in the country and to give the rugby players and fans a memory they won´t forget and that will inspire them to keep pushing for the growth of rugby in Brazil.
“We are very proud to be hosting the World Rugby U20 Trophy in July. This is a great opportunity to showcase rugby in Brazil, and motivate young players around the country to give rugby a try. It will also be our first time playing in the U20 Trophy, so it will be a great opportunity for our players.
“We are very excited that we are progressing as planned towards our goal with the men’s 15s team of qualifying for RWC 2023 in France. We have made great progress in the past years and are working very hard to keep up our pace of growth. We realise it's a challenging goal, but the challenge is what motivates us.”
The trophy visited iconic Brazilian landmarks during the trip, beginning with the SugarLoaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. At 396m high, this was the third highest point the trophy has reached on this tour, having previously visited Table Mountain in Cape Town and Everest Base Camp in 2018.
The final international stops in the Trophy Tour calendar will be Chile and Argentina before the Webb Ellis Cup returns to Japan, embarking on a 100-day tour of the host nation before the start of the tournament on 20 September. To view the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour schedule, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/trophy-tour.
Demand for Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets has been unprecedented with over five million ticket applications received to date. Fans now have the opportunity to secure their place at Japan 2019 as the last remaining tickets are available via www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets. For more details on Rugby World Cup 2019, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com.