Japan’s preparations to host Rugby World Cup 2019 have been given a further boost after the International Rugby Board announced that the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) will host the IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2011.
The sixth IRB Pacific Nations Cup tournament, now an established event on the annual Rugby calendar with its exciting brand of local rivalry and competitive action, will have an extra dimension as Fiji, Japan, Samoa and Tonga look to gain advantage ahead of Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand.
Samoa will defend the title they won for the first time on home soil last year as the single-host format continues. All six IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2011 matches will be played at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo between July 2-13, providing fans with three double-header match days and the ability to see some of the world’s most exciting players in action before they head to New Zealand.
“Rugby in Asia is continuing to go from strength to strength and the IRB is delighted to award this major international tournament to Japan and a Union that has been at the very heart of this growth,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“Japan staged an exceptional IRB Junior World Championship and is preparing to host the first ever Rugby World Cup in Asia. The single-hosting format of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup has proved extremely popular, allowing a greater platform for broadcast and media coverage, attendances, training and legacy programmes. I have no doubt that the 2011 tournament will be a resounding success.”
Tonga will play Fiji on the opening day while hosts Japan take on champions Samoa. Both corresponding fixtures in last year’s tournament produced thrilling matches as Fiji defeated Tonga by just three points – one of half the tournament matches to be decided by a margin of three points or less – and the Brave Blossoms secured a 31-23 victory over the eventual winners.
For the JRFU, the announcement adds to the expanding portfolio of international Rugby tournaments awarded to Japan after they played host to a record-breaking IRB Junior World Championship in 2009.
Hosting the IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2011 will give a further boost to the exposure of the Game across Asia as Japan looks ahead to Rugby World Cup 2019 and a tournament aimed at bringing together the Asian Rugby family for a unique celebration of world-class Rugby across the continent.
“It is an honour to solo host the very important and prestigious IRB Pacific Nations Cup and we are grateful to the IRB for deciding to hold it next July in Tokyo. We look forward to welcoming the other participating Unions, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and we would also love to see Rugby fans from all the corners of the globe,” said Vice President and Chairman of the Japan Rugby Football Union Nobby Mashimo.
“We are very confident that it will be a great success and that the players, teams, management and spectators will thoroughly enjoy their stay in Tokyo where tradition and modernism so vividly co-exist.”
“The sixth IRB Pacific Nations Cup is an ideal occasion to showcase the potential of the Rugby market in Japan, the enthusiasm of Japanese rugby fans and the ability of the Brave Blossoms. The Tournament will give the world Rugby family a glimpse of what lies ahead for Rugby World Cup 2019. See you next July here in Tokyo!” added Mashimo.
IRB Regional General Manager for Oceania Will Glenwright added: “The IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2011 is set to be the most exciting and competitive to date, with the tournament providing vital international matches for the Pacific Islands and Japan as they prepare for Rugby World Cup 2011 and also for their longer term development towards Rugby World Cup 2015 and 2019.”
“The tournament has become of vital importance to both the Oceania and Asia region and offers a wonderful opportunity to develop players, match officials and structures for all the Unions involved. It was hugely encouraging to see the much-improved performance of these nations during the recent November Test window.”
The tournament will also throw up two tasters for Rugby World Cup 2011 where Tonga will meet Pool A rivals Japan on Wednesday, September 21 in Whangarei before Fiji take on Samoa in their Pool D clash on September 25 in Auckland.