The International Rugby Board has reluctantly announced that all but one of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2011 matches will be moved from Japan to Fiji, following the devastating earthquake and Tsunami that hit the north-east coast of Japan on 11 March.
The decision, taken jointly with the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU), follows a detailed review of the logistical, administrative and operational requirements for hosting four international teams and six Test matches and will now enable the JRFU to fully focus on its core business and Rugby World Cup 2011 preparations as Japan starts the extensive rebuilding process.
The tournament will retain the same dates with the opening round taking place on 2 July, the second round on 9 July and the final round of matches on 13 July. The match between Japan and Samoa on 2 July will remain in Tokyo with the five remaining matches relocated to Lautoka and Suva.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “This has been a hard decision for everyone involved, given that the Japan Rugby Football Union has shown great enthusiasm for hosting the IRB Pacific Nations Cup this year, but all stakeholders agreed that it is in the best interests of the Union, the nation and the tournament.”
“The thoughts of the global Rugby family continue to be with the people of Japan and everyone affected by the earthquake and Tsunami as they focus on the rebuilding process across the country. We will continue to give the Japan Rugby Football Union our support and assistance.”
IRB Regional General Manager for Oceania and Tournament Director William Glenwright added: “An international event of this magnitude, which was broadcast in over 150 countries in 2010, requires a considerable amount of detailed logistical and operational planning and preparation.”
“The Japan Rugby Football Union, like everyone in Japan, has been acutely affected by the earthquake and Tsunami and their focus, quite rightly, is on continuing to give the Japanese Rugby community the best support they can as well as preparing for their participation at Rugby World Cup 2011 in less than five months time.”
“The Japan Rugby Football Union has been incredibly supportive throughout this difficult process and the IRB is committed to ensuring that they remain central to a tournament that they have worked so hard on hosting. It is therefore fitting that Samoa, who experienced the devastating impact of a Tsunami in 2009, will play their match against Japan in Tokyo as scheduled in a show of solidarity and support.”
While disappointed that the event has moved, the Japan Rugby Football Union recognised that the decision to relocate was the appropriate action to take and are committed to continuing to play their part to ensure that the tournament is a success.
"The relocation of matches was a difficult decision to take for the Japan Rugby Football Union and the IRB. It was a great disappointment, given our commitment to delivering an outstanding tournament, but it was the logical decision," said JRFU Chairman Tatsuzo Yabe.
"However, we are pleased that we will be playing Samoa in Tokyo as scheduled and will use the match as a sign of support for the Japan Rugby community, while showing our ability to deliver a superb Test match."
"We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Fiji Rugby Union for stepping up to host at short notice and we give our full support and blessing to the Union.”
The Fiji Rugby Union successfully hosted the IRB Pacific Nations Cup in 2009 and are working in collaboration with the IRB and JRFU on relocating the tournament to Fiji and delivering a successful event.
“We have all been shocked by the devastating scenes in Japan. In hosting this tournament we will extend the hand of friendship and support to the Japan Rugby Football Union and the entire Japan Rugby community,” said FRU Chief Executive Officer Keni Dakuidreketi.
“We are committed to this tournament being a symbol of solidarity for our friends in Japan and a showcase of Pacific Rugby talent. We look forward to welcoming the Japan team and all other participating teams to our shores.”
The revised schedule, including kick-off times, will be announced shortly.