World Rugby and the local organising committee for the 2019 World Cup have today (Thursday) unveiled the schedule and ticketing programme for the national team tournament under a scheme that seeks to make it accessible for the whole of Japan.
Taking place from September 20 to November 2, Japan Rugby 2019 detailed its plans under the banner of the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity presented by the tournament’s first edition in Asia. The International Stadium in Yokohama sit at the tournament’s heart with four pool matches, including New Zealand v South Africa, Ireland v Scotland, England v France and Japan v Scotland, as well as both semi-finals and the final itself.
Yokohama is the new centrepiece for the World Cup after World Rugby was forced to revise its initial plans. In September 2015, World Rugby approved a revised roadmap submitted by Japan, with Yokohama replacing Tokyo as the venue for the tournament’s final.
The Tokyo Stadium was introduced as a replacement for the National Stadium and will host the World Cup’s opening ceremony, as well as the first game of the tournament between the host nation and a European qualifier. Tokyo Stadium will also be the venue for five pool matches, two quarter-finals and the bronze final.
World Rugby had been forced to reassess plans for the World Cup after the 80,000-seat National Stadium, which was set to be the centrepiece of the tournament ahead of Tokyo’s hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games, was removed as a host venue for the rugby union showpiece. The decision came in July 2015 following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to shelve the original design amid concerns over spiralling costs – a development which meant a new venue would not be ready in time for the 2019 World Cup.
The World Cup’s 48 matches will be spread across the 12 host cities, with each match venue hosting a minimum of two matches. Organisers claims 80 per cent of the Japanese population will be within 30 minutes of a match. Along with Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan’s Rugby World Cup will also be staged at the Sapporo Dome, Sapporo City; Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Iwate Prefecture/Kamaishi City; Kumagaya Rugby Ground, Saitama Prefecture/Kumagaya City; Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa Stadium, Shizuoka Prefecture and Toyota Stadium, Aichi Prefecture/Toyota City.
Hosting rights have also been assigned to Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka Prefecture/Higashi Osaka City; Kobe City Misaki Park Stadium, Kobe City; Hakatanomori Football Stadium, Fukuoka City; Kumamoto Prefectural Athletic Stadium, Kumamoto Prefecture/Kumamoto City and Oita Stadium, Oita Prefecture. Oita will host two quarter-finals and three pool matches.
Organisers claim that player welfare and fan experience are at the centre of the schedule. All match venues will be within 45 minutes of a team camp, while the match schedule has been developed to optimise rest days for tier two teams ahead of tier one fixtures, enhancing preparation. Kick-off times have also been considered to optimise host nation engagement and key broadcast market audiences, with matches kicking off no later than 7:45pm local time.
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said: “We have worked hard to deliver a match schedule that improves on the Rugby World Cup 2015 model, delivering a more balanced spread of matches across the four weeks of pool matches and greater rest periods for the emerging rugby nations ahead of matches against the top-ranked teams. These are the foundations that will assist the world’s top players to perform to their best in Japan.”
Meanwhile, ticket sales for Japan 2019 will begin in January 2018. Organisers are seeking to sell 1.8 million tickets, with child tickets priced from ¥1,000 (€7.5/$9), adult tickets from ¥2,019 and 900,000 tickets under ¥15,000.
Officials have said Japan 2019 is set to be the most accessible World Cup of the modern era with a three-phase programme that seeks to recognise domestic and global demand, while rewarding the Japan rugby family, host city residents and supporters’ club/front row members within the priority sales phases. Around 60,000 fans are said to have already registered interest in tickets via the official ticketing site since September.