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Twelve cities selected for 2019 RWC

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, one of the Tohoku locales that was seriously damaged by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami four years ago, is among the 12 cities that will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup matches.

On Monday, the host cities were decided in the executive board meeting of the Rugby World Cup Ltd., which operates the World Cup, in Dublin, and were announced in news conferences at the same time in the Irish capital and Tokyo.

“We were advised by the RWCL that 10 cities are the best to operate the World Cup, but we managed to reach the agreement of all the aspects, including the number of host cities,” said Akira Shimazu, chief executive of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Organizing Committee, in Dublin.

“The final decision was based on the operation capability of the facilities, the infrastructure of the surrounding areas, the impact of the rugby legacy and enthusiasm of this sport.”

The 12 host cities and prefectures are (stadium to be used in parentheses) : Sapporo (Sapporo Dome), Kamaishi (Kamaishi Unosumai Stadium), Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture (Kumagaya Rugby Stadium), Tokyo (newly built National Stadium), Fukuroi, Shizuoka Prefecture (Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa), Toyota, Aichi Prefecture (Toyota Stadium), Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture (Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Stadium), Kobe (Misaki Park Stadium), Fukuoka (Higashihirao Park Hakatanomori Stadium), Oita (Oita Stadium), Kumamoto (Kumamoto Prefectural Sports Park Track and Field Stadium) and Yokohama (International Stadium Yokohama).

Sendai, Tohoku’s second-largest city, Kyoto and Nagasaki Prefecture, were scratched out from the 15 candidates.

Kamaishi is well-known for its rugby tradition through a club owned by the Kamaishi-based Nippon Steel Corporation (now Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal). The team, called Nippon Steel Kamaishi, became one of the elite clubs in Japan by winning eight national titles in the 1970s and ’80s. The club established its dynasty with seven straight championships from 1978-84.

The team, however, folded in 2001 because of economic difficulties and was reborn as a new club team later that year. The Kamaishi Seawaves, who belong to the Top East (one of the secondary divisions of the Top League), are its successor.

Higashiosaka’s Kintetsu Hanazono Rugby Stadium is one of the most popular rugby venues in Japan. It holds the annual national high school tournament, national college tournament, Top League matches and national championship matches.

The World Cup in Japan, the first in Asia, is scheduled for September and October in 2019, with 20 nations participating. The 12 cities will play host to the 48 matches, with the opening match and the final to be held at National Stadium.

Japan has participated in every World Cup since the first tournament was held in 1987 but has recorded only one win against 21 losses and two draws in its last eight competitions.