Dublin – Ireland, June 18, 2013: Japan 2019, Japan’s historic victory against Wales was not only a milestone for the national team, but it also proved a major step forward in re-igniting Japan’s passion for Rugby.
The second Test 23-8 win over Wales in front of a 21,062 full house in Tokyo represents a first-ever victory over a senior Rugby-playing nation and indicates that Japanese Rugby is once again moving the right direction on the world stage.
For Japan Rugby 2019, the local organising body of Rugby World Cup 2019, the result was a timely boost. It is an opportunity to reach out to people outside of Japan’s Rugby community, raise awareness of the sport and its character-building values, and build momentum towards what promises to be an outstanding tournament.
Japan Rugby 2019 General Manager Koji Tokumasu said: “As the organising body of Rugby World Cup 2019, our objective for the next six years is to inspire and engage and tell the people of Japan about this great tournament and its significant and unique social and economic benefits.”
“It is a natural fit for us. Japanese people connect with Rugby’s values and we have more than 110,000 registered players. In today’s congested entertainment and sports market, we need to reaffirm those values and sell our vision of a tournament for all of Japan, its people and all of Asia. This is one of the world’s largest sporting events and will be the first major event in our magnificent new national stadium.”
Rugby is experiencing a renaissance in Japan as momentum builds towards 2019 and the total of 110,000 registered players is amongst the world’s top five and the flag-bearer in Asia. Rugby is also winning over hearts and minds of new fans in Japan. The flagship domestic Top League is attracting some of the Game’s biggest names, from Wales and British and Irish Lions legend Shane Williams, Australia stars George Gregan and George Smith to Rugby World Cup-winners Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu and Jerome Kaino.
Earleir this year, the Tokyo leg of the record-breaking HSBC Sevens World Series attracted a strong attendance and domestic broadcast platform, while the men’s and women’s Japan Sevens teams have qualified for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow, underscoring their dominance of the Game in Asia.
Japan Rugby Football Union President and former Japan Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said: “We could not have wished for a better result. Rugby in Japan is associated with character and pride and the win against Wales gave the people of Japan a glimpse of the possibilities as well as what to expect in 2019.”
“One of the most important aspects of preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019 is to make our national team competitive. This is a step in the right direction, but we need to keep focus on Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying and taking another performance step forward at England 2015 once we get there.”
“We would like to thank the IRB for giving Japan and other Tier Two nations the great opportunity to play regularly against top nations. We will make every possible effort to deliver a successful Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, the first time in Asia, not only for Japan but also for Asian friends and our global Rugby friends.”
If the national newspaper coverage of the win is anything to go by – the win was front-page news in Japan – that inspiring process is already underway and the nation is not just ready to embrace the team, but the sport and the event with open arms.
For the Brave Blossoms, under coach Eddie Jones, managing expectations will be key, but as they move on to matches against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks and the climax of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2013 on home soil, the team acknowledges the role it needs to play to ensure the nation falls in love with Rugby.
Jones, a Rugby World Cup-winner in 2007 with South Africa, said: “While we should not get carried away with the victory, we recognise the role that the achievements of the team have played in putting Rugby back on the map here. We savour this moment, a significant moment for Japanese Rugby, but we have hard work ahead to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 and then nurture and finesse the class of 2019. It will be some journey but we are excited and the win at the weekend was a big step in that journey.”