Japan Rugby World Cup plan given thumbs up

Japan new schedule for the 2019 Rugby World Cup – after it scrapped a planned new national stadium – has received the green light from the sport’s governing body World Rugby.

Yokohama Stadium, which hosted the 2002 football World Cup final, will now get the 2019 rugby union finale.

Tournament plans were thrown into chaos when the proposed design for the new National Stadium – to be built for the 2020 Olympics – was scrapped in July as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe baulked at the $US2.1 billion ($A3 billion) cost.

It had been a key element of their winning bid and the scrapping of it had upset World Rugby greatly – it eventually led to the Japanese Sports Minister tendering his resignation last Friday.

The Tokyo Stadium will replace the new National Stadium among the 12 venues and will host both the opening ceremony and opening match.

World Rugby president Bernard Lapasset, who had ruled out switching the tournament after rumours that South Africa had proposed being a possible alternative, welcomed the new plan.

“These are exciting, unprecedented times for Japan Rugby and this revised roadmap reinforces and reflects the shared vision and mission to deliver a Rugby World Cup that will be great for Japan, great for Asia and great for Rugby,” said the Frenchman.

Japan was a strategic choice for World Rugby as it seeks new markets. It will be the first World Cup to be hosted outside the perceived strongholds of the sport.

The organisers’ chief executive Akira Shimazu said the new plan would still produce a superb spectacle.

“This revised plan is an exciting blueprint for success and we are confident that Rugby World Cup 2019 will be very special tournament for Japan and global rugby,” said Shimazu.

Japan’s sports minister Hakubun Shimomura announced last Friday he had offered to resign after the $US2.1 billion price tag for the proposed stadium sparked a public backlash.

Now a new design is being sought. The stadium fiasco has pushed back a new venue’s completion date, embarrassing Japanese sport officials.

For Japanese rugby it is the second significant boost in the past fortnight as their ‘Brave Blossoms’ pulled off the greatest upset in World Cup history with a 34-32 victory over two-time world champions South Africa in their opening pool game.

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