With World Rugby starting to publicly question Japan’s ability to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a letter to the sport’s governing body expressing the government’s continued support for the tournament.
“We received word from World Rugby that (World Rugby Chairman) Bernard Lapasset received a letter yesterday from Prime Minister Abe’s office,” Akira Shimazu, CEO of Japan Rugby 2019 (JR2019), said Saturday.
“It was a private letter so we are not sure of the contents but we understand the letter was honest, humble and strongly worded. We are obviously involved in the process with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, but Abe said he would fully back any of the changes stemming from the removal of the National Stadium.”
The letter was in response to World Rugby’s demand that local organizers produce a new road map for the tournament following Abe’s decision to scrap the original plans for a new National Stadium amid rising costs, forcing JR2019 to return to the drawing board.
The new facility had been slated to host the opening game, semifinals, final and key pool clashes.
“Prime Minister Abe understands his decision to scrap the stadium has caused ripples around the world and he moved to relay his feelings,” said Shimazu.
In addition to providing a new budget, World Rugby have also asked JR2019 to produce a revised host venue proposal by the end of September.
Shimazu said the original 12 host cities will remain in place, with Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium filling the void left by the National Stadium.
“We are holding conference calls with World Rugby on a daily basis,” Shimazu said. “We are going over many things including financial issues and we expect to reach an agreement soon. We cannot say exactly when, but we hope it will be within September.”