The Webb Ellis Cup visited Osaka and Kyoto in June as part of the 100-day Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour, ahead of the start of the tournament on 20 September.
The first stop was Hanazono Rugby Stadium, in Higashi-Osaka. In spite of the rain, more than 300 students from Osaka Junior High School came together at the Rugby World Cup 2019 match venue to celebrate 98 days to go to Rugby World Cup 2019 and get a glimpse of the Webb Ellis Cup. They were accompanied by local mascots as well as former rugby players Shotaro Onishi and Tongan-born Toetu'u Taufa.
During the event, Shotaro Onishi said: “I was impressed by how the whole country came together to support the Japanese teams in previous Rugby World Cup tournaments. I hope that Rugby World Cup 2019 will be a dream tournament for rugby players and supporters alike and I am very proud that it will be held here in Japan. I hope the next generation of rugby players here today enjoy seeing the Webb Ellis Cup and feel inspired to continue playing the game to the best of their abilities.”
Toetu'u Taufa also added: “Playing in the Japanese national team at Rugby World Cup 2011 was the highlight of my rugby career. It has been a pleasure to see so many people gathered in the rain today to support the Rugby World Cup here in Japan and the Trophy Tour and I am expecting the tournament later this year to be an extremely special event for everyone.”
CROWDS OF 3,000 ENJOYED THE CELEBRATIONS
On Saturday, a 3,000 strong crowd enjoyed music and celebrations as Osaka City marked the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2019 with an event at Tennoji Park. The event was attended by Governor Yoshimura Hirofumi of Osaka Prefecture and Mayor Noda Yoshikazu of Higashi-Osaka City as well as Japanese national players Kensuke Enoyama, Shinya Makabe and Takeshi Kizu, who were part of the national side that went to Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.
Governor Yoshimura, who played in a rugby club during his time in high school, said: “Soon the Rugby World Cup will come to Osaka and we are looking forward to welcoming the world. I remember fondly the emotion and pride from the last Rugby World Cup - when Japan played and beat South Africa I was moved to tears. I hope that players and fans that come to our great city later this year enjoy every moment and take home memories that will last a lifetime."
Before the Webb Ellis Cup moved on to Kyoto, the trophy was photographed at iconic Kuromon Market, famous for selling the freshest produce and a well-known landmark in Osaka.
In Kyoto, the Trophy Tour supported one of many Impact Beyond 2019 legacy programmes in Japan, Paddy Field Rugby. 38 teams, including local elementary and junior high school students, teachers and nurses, took part in the session, which saw players run, jump, tackle and pass in the muddy waters of the paddy fields.
Sinali Latu, former Japanese rugby international and Rugby World Cup 2019 ambassador, was also present at the event and said: “Paddy Field Rugby is a really exciting way to play the game and it has been fantastic to see the local people from Kyoto get involved today. We are really hoping that by hosting Rugby World Cup 2019 here in Japan, more people will take up rugby and experience something I have been lucky enough to enjoy throughout my life. I hope the whole region gets involved in this first ever Rugby World Cup in Asia.”
Finally, the Webb Ellis Cup visited Kyoto World Heritage site, Shimogamo Shrine. This is said to be the birthplace of Kansai Rugby and therefore a fitting location for a reception with rugby’s greatest prize. The trophy was greeted by local ambassadors Yoshihiro Sakata, President of the Kansai Rugby Union and former Japanese rugby international, Yukio Motoki, as well as members of the public who had gathered to enjoy the celebration.
Motoki said: “We are very proud to be hosting the first ever Rugby World Cup to take place outside developed rugby nations and this is a great opportunity for the world to experience our unique Japanese hospitality and for us to take our place on the world sporting stage later this year.”
The city of Kyoto is certainly gearing up to welcome the world later this year and it is expected that many tourists and travelling fans will visit the city from overseas during their Rugby World Cup adventures. Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa called on the city to embrace the final 100 day countdown until the start of the tournament and encouraged local businesses, residents and officials to do everything possible to ensure travelling fans receive the best welcome to Kyoto and Japan in September.
The Webb Ellis Cup is in Japan for a 100-day tour of the host nation before the start of the tournament on September 20. The next stop for the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour will be host city Shizuoka.
With over 5.5 million ticket applications, this year’s tournament in Japan is set to become the most popular Rugby World Cup to date. All remaining tickets are on sale now via rugbyworldcup.com/tickets.