Representatives from the 12 host cities of Rugby World Cup 2019 gathered together for the first time on Wednesday to share ideas and celebrate their success in making it through the selection process.
“This is an opportunity to congratulate the 12 cities that were chosen in March to be hosts and for them to get together and start planning for a successful tournament,” said Koji Tokumasu, General Manager of Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee.
All of the representatives and their respective prefectures, from Sapporo in the far north to Kumamoto in the south, were presented with the new Japan national team jersey to wear as well as receiving commemorative rugby balls to mark their acceptance as a host city back in March.
“This is the first time everyone has been in the same place at the same time,” said Fujio Mitarai, President of the Organising committee. “I hope everyone remembers the rugby spirit of 'all for one, one for all,' and unites for one goal. The Rugby World Cup can be used as a foundation for people in Japan to participate in a sporting event and with the Tokyo Olympics the following year, we must make it a success.”
Newly appointed Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura said there was a big rugby family in Japan and hoped it would contribute to a successful tournament.
“Preparations for 2019 are going well,” he said. “We are now moving on to selecting the training venues and hopefully they too can help internationalise and globalise our country, in addition to all the positive economic benefits we will get.”
Hakubun Shimomura, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, told the assembly of representatives and prefectures that the Rugby World Cup is one of the three biggest sporting events in the world stressing that the government would do all they could to help make it a successful event.
“I hope all the ministries will work together to support preparations for the tournament,” he said.
Olympics minister Toshiaki Endo said he had attended the Parliamentary Rugby World Cups of 1999 in Wales and 2011 in New Zealand and he remembered how united the local people were in supporting the event. “It's great that so many rugby fans will come here and the local people are very important in making sure the tournament is a success. The government will do all they can to help the tournament and I hope the players give their best effort as well.”
Creating a legacy
Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi reminded everyone that both the men's and women's sevens team have a good chance of making it to the Olympics next year and she hoped the success of Japan's Nadeshiko ladies football team would see the sport take off amongst the female population in Japan. She also reminded everyone of the economic benefits of hosting the world's third biggest sporting event.
“I have talked to a few people and they have told me one of the big aspects of the tournament is the time between games,” she said. “That allows visitors to go out and spend time in the host cities and travel. That's very unique, and we as a government will do all we can to support the host cities to make sure they have a successful tournament and get as much out of it as they can.”
Legendary former Brave Blossoms player and coach Seiji Hirao, who is the special assistant to CEO of RWC 2019 Organising Committee, said he hoped he and other former players would be able to pass on various aspects of rugby culture to the various host cities.
“There is so much going on and happening that we need to make sure we are co-ordinated and on the same wavelength,” he said.