World Rugby has given itself a one-month window to reschedule matches at its 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan after Tokyo’s new National Stadium project was taken back to the drawing board.
The 80,000-seat National Stadium was set to be the centrepiece of the Rugby World Cup ahead of Tokyo’s hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games, but was removed as a host venue for the rugby union showpiece last month following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to shelve the original design amid concerns over spiralling costs.
A new tender process has been launched for the National Stadium, which remains at the heart of the Olympic plans, but the delay leaves World Rugby without a venue for its World Cup final and a number of matches earlier in the tournament.
“We have given ourselves one month to get out of this situation. We must not delay, not have any doubts,” World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset told the AFP news agency. “We must have something ready in a month. We need to know now how we are going to reorganise all of the competition so that there is a balance of different matches in the different stadiums.”
Lapasset (pictured) was speaking after an emergency meeting between World Rugby officials and Japanese organisers was put together on the sidelines of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Yokohama’s International Stadium – venue for the 2002 Fifa World Cup final, has a capacity of 72,000 and is a potential alternative venue, while Lapasset has not ruled out legal action given that there will be 15,000 to 20,000 fewer tickets for each match that was originally due to take place at the National Stadium.
“We know the stadiums exist,” he said. “There is the Yokohama stadium which staged the 2002 World Cup final. There will have to be a balancing of the number of matches held there. We have requested a precise analysis and we are considering (seeking) financial compensation if the losses are quite heavy. There are financial implications for us.”
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper told the Reuters news agency: “I think everyone was surprised by the announcement from the Prime Minister of Japan, the Olympic movement included, and we were all taken a little bit aback by that. We had plans to use that incredible stadium, obviously for our finals and key games in World Cup 2019, so we met with the 2019 people here from Japan two days ago.
“We asked a lot of questions about alternative scenarios. It will probably reduce our ticket capacity to a certain extent so there are certain financial implications too, but we're discussing all of that with them.”
Meanwhile, Gosper remains confident that the rugby sevens venue for the Rio 2016 Olympics will be ready on time despite construction on the temporary arena in the Deodoro Zone not having started a year out from the Games.