Rugby World Cup head Alan Gilpin has stressed the local organizing committee and the Japan Rugby Football Union need to make the most of the remaining four years to ensure the World Cup tournament is a success.
“The next stage is to bed in the planning and start digging into detail to improve things to Rugby World Cup standard,” he told Kyodo News from Dublin the day after Monday’s historic announcement of the 12 cities to host Rugby World Cup 2019.
“The legacy of the World Cup needs to be planned and we expect them to work hard. We want the tournament to be a springboard to harness interest in rugby in both Japan and Asia.”
Among the issues of concern are the athletics tracks that encircle five of the venues, refurbishment of two of the older stadiums and the remoteness of two of the grounds. Gilpin also said that Japan 2019 and the JRFU need to address marketing and ticketing, both in Japan and Asia, to increase awareness of the tournament.
JRFU president Yoshiro Mori appeared more concerned with the distance the tracks place between the action and fans, when asked about them on Monday, but Gilpin said the safety of the players was the most important factor.
In Japan, a green carpet is placed on the track to lengthen the playing area and provide some “safety” along the sidelines.
“The key issue is to make sure we get the right solution and that the surface is fit for playing,” Gilpin said.
One option he said would be to raise the playing surface so that artificial turf can be installed in the necessary areas rather than venues being forced to dig up parts of the track.
“The Olympic Stadium (in London) will be used not long after the Diamond League athletics meet (at this year’s World Cup), so other venues have faced this problem,” he explained.
Whatever is done must comply with rugby regulations, specifically concerning the reaction of players and the ball to artificial surfaces.
Gilpin said the refurbishment needed at two of Japan’s older more traditional rugby venues on the list — Kumagaya Rugby Ground in Saitama and Osaka’s Hanazono Rugby Stadium — was “an opportunity to invest and leave a great legacy in two dedicated rugby venues.”
He said there were still questions remaining about the selection of Kamaishi, one of the areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
“The challenge is making sure the local infrastructure” is intact but “we were given assurances at city and prefecture level.”
Gilpin said teams would be consulted about traveling time when reminded that access to Kamaishi and the number of hotels might pose problems, as it might with Toyota Stadium in Aichi Prefecture.
“We assessed everything to certain standards in terms of rugby, the media and fans,” he said. “The next step is to work through the scheduling and what will work and what will not work in terms of transport and map out the shape of tournament. There will be a lot of consultation with venues, stakeholders, broadcasters and teams.
“There is a lot of work to do. We have to make sure everyone understands the scale of being host.”