The Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour completed its visit to Fiji this week after travelling across the country and engaging some of the nation’s youngest and most passionate rugby fans.

Arriving in Nadi last week, the coveted Webb Ellis Cup was seen by more than 3,000 children with surprise visits to Kulu Kulu Public School in Sigatoka and the 2018 Kaji Cup at St Marcellin Primary School. The Trophy Tour was also formally welcomed at the Marist Brother High School in Suva before joining the end of year sports presentations at Ratu Kadavulevu School in Lodoni.

Exciting the next generation of Flying Fijians, the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour received high praise from Fiji’s Minister for Youth and Sports Laisenia Tuitubou, who said: “The Rugby World Cup 2019 theme of ‘unity’ is universal and cherished in Fiji. The Fijian Government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, ensures that we have an all-inclusive approach towards sports development in the country. We are ensuring that, increasingly, all Fijians receive equal access to sports and sporting facilities regardless of gender, background or ability and we have been honoured to the host the Webb Ellis Cup through the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour which has inspired so many young rugby fans throughout the week.”

With Fiji’s national pride and passion for the game on show at every turn, the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour also received a warm welcome as it travelled to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, a traditional fire walking ceremony at Pacific Harbour, a community centre in Galoa Village, and the heart-shaped island of Tavarua.

Fiji have played in seven Rugby World Cup tournaments to date and are one of the 20 teams preparing to journey to Japan for the ninth instalment of the competition next year. With less than 500 days to go until the opening match, the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour not only inspired fans but also provided an opportunity for the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) to forge closer links with the Japan Rugby 2019 organising committee and host city Kamaishi, where Fiji will meet Uruguay in their second match of Pool D.

FRU CEO John O’Connor and Fiji squad members Mosese Voka, Serupepeli Vulariki and Eroni Mawi welcomed Head of JRFU Interface Legacy Dept & Executive Office, RWC 2019 organising committee Gen Fukushima and Director of the Kamaishi Seawaves and member of the host city delegation Mr Toshio Hamato to FRU headquarters to look ahead to the tournament, exchange gifts and build a union between Fiji and Japan ahead of 2019.

FRU CEO John O’Connor said: “On behalf of the Fiji Rugby Union President, Board Chairman, Board of Directors, management and staff, the FRU was delighted to welcome the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour as its presence inspired our children, fans and rugby our players. The story of Kamaishi’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake is an inspirational one, which has touched many of us as we can relate to it, because we too have suffered from many natural disasters and have managed to recover from them. This will inspire our coaches and our players too, as the focus now shifts to preparations for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan which will prove to be very exciting.”

Head of JRFU Interface Legacy Department and Executive Office, RWC 2019 organising committee Gen Fukushima, added: “We observed lots of excitement and passion for Rugby World Cup 2019 throughout the Fiji Trophy Tour and thank the Fiji Rugby Union for their hospitality. One of the key elements of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan is to ‘connect’ participating unions with hosting cities not only through the game but also through cultural exchange. The tour was a great opportunity for us to bring the representative from Kamaishi City to Fiji and also to introduce the other three Fiji team’s hosting cities; Sapporo, Osaka/Higashi-Osaka and Oita.

“We enjoyed the Fijian cultural and warm welcome during our stay. This made us more excited about welcoming all of the teams and guests in 2019, not only from Fiji but also from all over the world in the very Japanese or host cities’ unique and traditional way.”

Mr Hamato added: “We decided to host Rugby World Cup 2019 in Kamaishi to accelerate the reconstruction of our city after the Great East Japan Earthquake and to bring a bright future through the tournament. During our Fiji viisit, we presented Fiji Rugby Union and Marist Brother High School with Kamaishi Rugby symbolic flags‘Tairyoki’. I was impressed by lots of smiles and the excitement which the Webb Ellis Cup and our flags brought. I truly believe that this is the value of rugby and that the tournament makes lots of happiness and brings energy to the hosting cities.”

Fiji and Japan continued to showcase their shared passion for rugby with a final stop for the Webb Ellis Cup at the Residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Fiji, Masahiro Omura. Ambassador Omura, along with Rugby World Cup 2019 Worldwide Partners DHL, hosted a reception attended by Fiji squad members and management including head coach John McKee, Minister for Youth and Sports Laisenia Tuitubou, former President of Fiji Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and members of the media. Attendees enjoyed a blend of Japanese and Fijian culture and looked ahead to the exciting celebration of rugby hosted in Japan next year.

The Webb Ellis Cup will now travel to Hong Kong for the fifth leg of the Trophy Tour which coincides with the Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier between Hong Kong and Malaysia on 26 May. A visit to China follows Hong Kong and the Trophy Tour then resumes in July travelling across Asia. Click here to view the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour schedule.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour aims to inspire new audiences and participants through a programme of community, education and rugby activities. The two-year tour includes a mix of established and emerging rugby nations and in Asia it will support the dedicated Impact Beyond 2019 legacy programme which aims to attract and retain one million new rugby participants. The tour will also excite the global rugby family and drive fan engagement as Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan approaches.

Rugby World Cup 2019 takes place from 20 September- 2 November, 2019 and will be the first time the tournament is hosted in Asia.

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