In the event that the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosting rights are removed from Japan due to issues involved with the hosting of the flagship tournament, South Africa could be considered as the most likely backup plan for World Rugby.
These are the latest rumblings within the sport as the international governing body for the sport, World Rugby (previously the IRB) are reportedly keeping a nation on standby should they be required to act on their disappointment with Japan in terms of their commitment to holding the tournament in the Asian country.
World Rugby is concerned about issues relating to stadia which will be used during the 2019 event, with the National Stadium recently taken off the table by the hosts due to the exorbitant cost of its construction. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered that plans for the stadium be re-drawn and designed, as the current plan was too expensive.
This decision suggests Japan’s emphasis on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, rather than the Rugby World Cup the year before, as the arena will only be ready in time for the summer games.
The stadium was envisioned to be the main venue at the 2019 World Cup, and its exclusion from the list of arenas has World Rugby concerned, with the governing body asking for formal assurances that Japan will be able to deliver on its obligations. World Rugby also wants a revised budget and venue plan in light of recent developments with the National Stadium.
“The new National Stadium was due to be the centrepiece of an exciting program of 12 host venues, staging the opening match, the final and other key clashes and its loss has significant impact on the overall ticketing capacity and tournament budget. These are critical to an event that is the lifeblood of the game,” an official statement from World Rugby revealed.
According to SuperSport, sources suggest that South African Rugby Union (SARU) chief executive Jurie Roux was involved in secret meetings with World Rugby during the course of the week with a view to understanding if South Africa would be able to act as a late backup for the Japanese should the governing body choose to take the tournament hosting rights away from them.
SARU is currently preparing a bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and is considered a logical choice to be considered as a standby host if Japan is not able to prove their ability to host rugby’s premier international tournament, which is hosted every four years.
The Rugby showpiece event in Japan is part of World Rugby’s strategy to develop the sport in new territories and offer hosting rights to rugby’s lesser known nations, rather than the usual powerhouse countries which dominate the sport.
But if World Rugby decides that it is not confident in Japan’s ability as host, they may decide to give South Africa the opportunity to host again, as they did in 1995 when the Springboks won the tournament for the first time.
The next Rugby World Cup will be played later this month in England, with the Springboks of South Africa beginning their campaign on September 19 with a test against
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