• Kyodo


Rugby World Cup 2019, which kicks off in exactly one year’s time, will get unparalleled television coverage in Japan with all 48 games shown on J Sports and 31 games shown live on free-to-air channels, organizers have said.

“The tournament here will have unprecedented free-to-air coverage for rugby and it’s an opportunity to use rugby’s biggest event to reach the widest possible audience,” Alan Gilpin, head of Rugby World Cup Ltd., said Thursday, ahead of events marking the one-year-to-go milestone.

The opening game between Japan and Russia at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium on Sept. 20, 2019, all of the Brave Blossoms games and the final on Nov. 2, 2019, are among games included in the free-to-air package on NHK and commercial network NTV.

And World Rugby is hoping to replicate that coverage in key territories across Asia.

“Asia is such an important growth market for the sport, particularly in terms of young people, that we’ve got to have a broadcast strategy that supports the tournament and beyond,” said Gilpin.

A year out from the tournament kicking off, the first to be hosted outside one of the sport’s traditional heartlands, World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper praised the efforts of the local organizing committee.

“Overall there are no major obstacles in the last 12 months,” he said. “They seem to have organized themselves well and we are on schedule. It has not always been that way until now but they are in a very good position with no more risks or challenges than there would be for an organizing committee a year out.”

With the ticketing process having entered its penultimate stage Wednesday — 70 percent of tickets have already been sold via 2.5 million applications in pre-sales — organizers said they were delighted at the response.

“Ticket sales are going very well and there are in a far better position than they were this time four years ago in England. I am reliably informed there were 80,000 applications (on Wednesday the first day of the general sales ballot),” said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont.

Tours from overseas have also exceeded expectations.

“Rugby World Cup 2019 is on track to be a very special and game-changing event,” said Gosper. “In addition to exceptional ticketing demand, the official supporter tour and hospitality offering is exceeding all expectations and underscoring our belief that Japan is the place to be in 2019.”

And Beaumont was under no illusions as to why.

“The one thing we are seeing is lots of rugby followers who would never normally think of coming to Japan are certainly now going to come here. So you will see a huge growth in the tourist numbers coming.”

Previous tournaments have generally seen the same teams contest the knockout stages. But Gosper said the winning margins between Tier 1 and Tier 2 countries have decreased at every World Cup, and like his colleagues, he is hoping there could be some upsets on the cards.

“I think the U.S. are shaping up quite well,” said World Rugby Vice Chairman Agustin Pichot, who led Argentina to third place at the 2007 World Cup. “And if Fiji get their act together, they could get into the quarterfinals.”

And what of Japan?

“Japan goes really well in a tournament,” said Pichot. “You see them at the Olympic Games, you see them (in 2015). They show up for big tournaments. Because of the complexity of Super Rugby (in which the Sunwolves have struggled), we don’t know yet how the team will do. But having home advantage, they could be a contender.”

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