• Kyodo


World Rugby Hall of Famer Yoshihiro Sakata and Olympic wrestling legend Saori Yoshida will be among the presenters at next week’s draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, organizers announced Tuesday.

The pair will be joined on May 10 at the iconic Kyoto State Guest House by World Rugby chairman and Hall of Famer Bill Beaumont and Steve Hansen, head coach of reigning champion New Zealand.

The head of the Host City Council for Japan 2019, head coaches and other high-profile representatives of the 12 directly qualified teams will also be in attendance as the world finds out who will play who in the pool stage of the tournament.

“The pools will be drawn by five eminent people, representing Japanese athletes, host cities, and the global rugby community,” said Japan Rugby 2019 CEO Akira Shimazu.

“With the pools finalized it will allow us to promote further Rugby World Cup 2019 as the first one to be held in Asia. We look forward to continuing to engage with sports fans all over Japan and throughout the continent.”

Sakata was the first Japanese player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame following a glittering playing career.

The flying wing won the first of his 16 caps for Japan while still at Doshisha University and finished his test-match career with 13 tries, four of which came in a memorable 23-19 victory against the Junior All Blacks in 1968.

In 1969, he was voted as one of the five best players in the world (together with Jo Maso and Walter Spanghero of France and Sid Going and Wayne Cottrell of New Zealand) by the New Zealand Rugby Almanac and was invited to play New Zealand provincial rugby for Canterbury the following season, scoring 30 tries in 27 games.

Nicknamed “Demi” as a result of his small stature, Sakata was also selected to play for New Zealand Universities and the New Zealand Barbarians.

Yoshida is the most decorated athlete in freestyle wrestling history having won gold at three Olympic Games, four Asian Games, and 13 world championships.

The draw will see 20 teams allocated into four pools of five. Twelve teams, including host Japan, have directly qualified by virtue of finishing in the top three of the four pools at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The 12 teams have been seeded based on the World Rugby rankings following this year’s Six Nations and positioned into three bands of four teams. The remaining eight sides to win through following the qualification process will make up the bottom two bands.

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