Rugby chiefs eye game-changing World Cup in Japan

Reading Time: 3 minutes

World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper hopes the 2019 World Cup in Japan will be a game-changer for the sport globally but also believes it can help transform lives across Asia.

Marking 200 days to go until the tournament kicks off, World Rugby and ChildFund, the main charity partner for the event, have confirmed that a record £1.5 million ($2 million) has been pledged to ChildFund Pass It Back.

ChildFund aims to instill values associated with rugby and the programme will teach more than 25,000 children — half of them girls — leadership and conflict resolution.

“Rugby is a sport that embraces different shapes and sizes and therefore that spirit of solidarity feeds into such a programme,” Gosper told AFP.

“The values of our sport are understood by people before they get to grips with the rules of it.

“Our values are ideal for things such as leadership skills, confidence, gender equality, management of a community, working together to achieve goals.”

Gosper, who is hoping to visit one of the programmes, in Laos, in the next couple of months, said he is delighted with the money raised so far.

“Part of any major sports programme is what will be an uptick in the area,” he said. “We hope the people involved will pass on the message to the village and that it resonates with those who have not been part of it.”

And Gosper believes the message it conveys will have a long-lasting impact.

“The charity link-up was ideal as it is geographically aligned,” he said.

“The benefits of the collaboration are enormous as it is a truly transformational and tangible legacy for the sport, but also society in Asia, which is one of the reasons we awarded the Rugby World Cup to Japan.”

Japan’s tsunami on March 11, 2011, left about 18,500 people dead or missing and one of the World Cup venues, Kamaishi, was hard-hit.

Australian Test star Scott Fardy remained along with a couple of Tongan players and a New Zealand teammate to help with the clean-up operation in Kamaishi, where they were playing at the time.

Eight years on, the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium will host two of the matches at the sport’s showpiece event — Fiji v Uruguay on September 25 and Namibia v Canada on October 13.

“One of the goals of the project is supporting communities impacted by the earthquake in Japan,” Gosper said.

“That aligns with our support of Kamaishi and the building of a new stadium for the community and Rugby World Cup.”