Rugby

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mulls visiting Twickenham Stadium, home of England rugby team

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering visiting Twickenham Stadium, home of the England rugby team, during his trip to the U.K. in January, it has been learned.

The Japanese and U.K. governments are currently making scheduling arrangements for the visit.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to accompany Abe on the visit to the stadium, which is widely regarded as sacred rugby turf and is located in a suburb of London, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

The visit will be aimed at raising awareness of the Rugby World Cup, which is set to be held in Japan in autumn next year, and encouraging rugby fans in the U.K. to visit the Asian country for the quadrennial event.

Four teams from the archipelago — England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland — will participate in the upcoming World Cup. The Ireland team will be composed of players from both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

With all of these teams having numerous dedicated fans, tens of thousands of them are expected to visit Japan to watch the games.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup, hosted by England, is said to have attracted more than 400,000 visitors from overseas.

Japan’s government intends to take the opportunity of hosting the next World Cup to promote so-called sports tourism, encouraging the rugby fans to also visit tourist spots around the venues.

Twickenham Stadium is home to a museum with exhibitions about rugby around the world.

In a match in November, Japan was beaten by England at the stadium after taking the lead in the first half. England is where rugby was born.

Abe is considering visiting the Netherlands and the U.K. from Jan. 9. While in the U.K. he plans to hold talks with May.