‘Ja­pan ready to scrum down for a great World Cup’

Saturday Star - - SPORT -

“I gen­uinely think we are right where we want to be,” Gilpin said yes­ter­day.

“It is ex­cit­ing to see it com­ing to life and we are con­fi­dent it will be a great tour­na­ment next year.

“Six months ago we had some con­cerns, par­tic­u­larly around en­sur­ing the en­vi­ron­ment for the teams was go­ing to be what it needed it be for rugby’s lead­ing com­pe­ti­tion – the very best.”

To al­le­vi­ate those fears, World Rugby put for­ward new rec­om­men­da­tions and de­manded more world-class op­tions for team bases for the sixweek tour­na­ment that be­gins in Septem­ber 2019.

Since then, 51 team bases have been pro­posed and ac­cepted by the tour­na­ment’s or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, leav­ing the 16 al­ready-qual­i­fied teams sat­is­fied.

“The or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, host cities and pre­fec­tures have re­sponded re­ally well, so we are re­ally happy with the team camp se­lec­tion process,” stressed Gilpin.

The other sig­nif­i­cant change from six months ago is that tick­ets have now been on sale since mid-jan­uary, with World Rugby de­lighted by more than 1.2 mil­lion ap­pli­ca­tions so far.

Gilpin es­ti­mates that 65 per­cent of those have been do­mes­tic.

“It shows fan­tas­tic de­mand and, sig­nif­i­cantly, it is not just the Ja­pan matches, it is not just the knock­out matches, it is across all the venues,” he stressed.

With the tour­na­ment set to be staged at 12 venues, from Sap­poro in the north to Ku­mamoto in the south, or­gan­is­ers hope to give vis­i­tors an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore Ja­pan be­yond the usual tourist trails.

“There is a huge amount of lo­cal pride in each of the cities in terms of the matches they are host­ing,” said Gilpin, who also over­saw the 2015 World Cup in Eng­land.

“There are also some su­perb nar­ra­tives around some of the host cities. For ex­am­ple, at Ka­maishi, which we al­ways knew might be the story of the tour­na­ment.

“The two matches that will take place there will be very spe­cial and so there is a huge de­mand for those matches.”

The Ka­maishi Re­cov­ery Me­mo­rial Sta­dium, lo­cated in the re­gion rav­aged by the 2011 earth­quake, is the only sta­dium be­ing built specif­i­cally for this event. It will host its first match in Au­gust and two matches dur­ing the World Cup. – Reuters

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