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Brave Blossoms defense coach Jones says Japan can handle hosting 2019 RWC

by Rich Freeman

Kyodo

Japan defense coach Leigh Jones said Wednesday Japan was ready to host a Rugby World Cup.

A day after World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said, “There was no plan B” to shift the 2019 tournament to South Africa, the former Hong Kong head coach said, “The infrastructure is there, the foundations are there. It’s ready and it would be great for Asian rugby.”

Lapasset’s comments came a week after reports from South Africa suggested the republic had been in talks with World Rugby to act as host if Japan was unable to meet new requirements laid out in the wake of the new National Stadium not being ready in time for the 2019 tournament.

But Lapasset refuted any talks had been held Tuesday saying, “It was difficult after the cutting of the stadium. That meant a big change to the program. However, we are very confident now the Japanese will meet our requirements. We will be holding some meetings with the Japanese in the coming weeks to ensure we have the best competition in 2019.”

Jones praised the sport’s governing body for the work they were doing in promoting grassroots rugby in the region and said holding the Rugby World Cup in Japan would “put the sport in the shop window.

“It would bring attention to and highlight the top end of the sport,” he said.

Lock Luke Thompson has spent the last 12 years in Japan and he too hoped talk of moving the tournament away from his adopted homeland was nothing but unfounded rumors.

“It would be great for Japanese rugby and Asian rugby. And it would be good for world rugby to take the tournament out of its comfort zone and show there is a huge rugby community outside the home nations and New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.”

Thompson, who is playing in his third World Cup, said from a personal point of view he could not see the Japanese government letting something of so much economic importance slip by.

He also felt people often looked down on Japanese rugby in terms of the crowds it attracts, pointing out that stadiums in New Zealand were rarely full for ITM Cup or Super Rugby games.

“Some good results here (at RWC 2015) would certainly help raise the public’s awareness,” he said. “It’s a good motivator for us and (head coach) Eddie Jones has certainly made us aware of the responsibility and opportunity we have here.”