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Race on to bring Rugby World Cup to Asia

By Martin Parry 19/05/2009 10:05:49 AM Comments (0)

The race is on to bring the Rugby World Cup to Asia with Japan once again the driving force, but if its bid for 2015 is successful Hong Kong and Singapore will also host matches.

Japan narrowly missed out on holding the 2011 World Cup and continues to press its case that the International Rugby Board must take action to develop the game outside its traditional heartlands.

That could work in Japan's favour as it battles Italy, England and South Africa with a decision to be made on both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups on July 28 in Dublin.

All the countries have thrown their hats in the ring for both tournaments, except England which is concentrating on 2015, with tenders lodged last week.

"To have a World Cup in Asia would be a great leap forward for world rugby," said Japanese Rugby Football Union chairman Nobby Mashimo.

"Our message to the IRB council members is that 60 per cent of the world's population lives in Asia and with 26 unions it could fire rugby. It could lead to a new stage, new possibilities and a new power.

"This is a special bid as it is a bid for rugby in Asia.

"With the support of our friends from all 26 unions, and the backing of the Japanese government and business community, we believe that we can deliver a Rugby World Cup that will capture the hearts and minds of people and provide the platform to take rugby to new levels in Asia."

While its opponents are formidable, Japan is seen as having plenty to offer in terms of growth in a key regional market, and their experience in co-hosting the successful 2002 football World Cup will be a plus point.

Also attractive to the IRB is that rugby in Japan has a developing following and player numbers larger than some of the European Six Nations.

Its popularity is also increasing throughout the region.

Last year Asia established its own Five Nations tournament to develop the sport, featuring Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and the Arabian Gulf, who were replaced this year by Singapore.

Now in its second year, Japan comfortably defended its title last weekend and is hot favourite to be Asia's representative at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Despite their clear dominance, Japan coach John Kirwan, a former All Black, said there were signs that the standard of rugby across the region was improving.

"Last year, for the first time, we took it (Asian rugby) seriously and we tried to put on as many points and win by as much as we could," he said.

"That was a positive and a negative, some of the results were blown out.

"But what it did do is it showed the difference and the gap and what the teams have done is they have gone away and they have learnt from it and they have come back better."

The Asia bid would use nine venues in eight Japanese cities - Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Sendai, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Kobe and Toyota - as well as the Hong Kong Stadium and the yet-to-be-built Singapore Sports Hub.

As well as a huge boost to the profile of the sport in Asia, staging a World Cup would bring significant economic benefits. A recent independent report estimated that a host nation could gain by up to $US3.2 billion ($A4.19 billion).

Working against Japan could be commercial considerations with the most valuable television rights being sold in Europe and broadcasters in that region keen for matches to take place in their time zone.

England and Italy envisage using iconic soccer stadia to bolster their bids while South Africa is basing its tender on memories of the successful 1995 tournament, which proved to be a post-apartheid milestone for the country.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

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