Rugby’s greatest prize – the Webb Ellis Cup – has arrived in Fiji as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour. Heart-shaped Tavarua Island was the perfect location to start the four-day Trophy Tour in a nation that has rugby at its heart.
After Tavarua Island, the trophy will visit a number of locations across Viti Levu, from the world-famous Sigatoka sand dunes to local schools and a traditional firewalking ceremony.
With an action-packed schedule, Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour promises to share the values of rugby and the excitement of the world’s third largest sporting event across the island.
On Friday, the Trophy Tour will be joined by delegates from Kamaishi City, one of the twelve host cities in Japan for Rugby World Cup 2019.
Fiji will open their Rugby World Cup 2019 campaign against Australia in Match 2 at the Sapporo Dome, before travelling to Kamaishi City to face Uruguay at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium. After the events of March 11 2011, many associate Kamaishi with the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster.
Although devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, the city has made great strides in its recovery and this week announced that Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium will open on 19 August 2018.
During their visit to Fiji, the delegates from Kamaishi will present the Fiji Rugby Union with a specially designed traditional ‘Tairyo-bata’ Kamaishi flag. Originally flown on fisherman boats, these decorative flags are a unique part of Kamaishi culture.
The presentation represents the start of a warm welcome for Fiji from the Rugby World Cup 2019 hosts and symbolises their hopes for forging a strong relationship ahead of the tournament.
World Rugby Chairman, Bill Beaumont, said: “We are very excited to be taking the Webb Ellis Cup to Fiji as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour. With their passion for the game I am certain that that the people of Fiji will help make the visit a true celebration of rugby as we continue the journey towards Rugby World Cup 2019.
“In the week that the official opening date for the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium was announced, I am delighted that delegates from Kamaishi will take part in the tour, to share their remarkable and inspiring story and to deliver a traditional flag to the people of Fiji. United by their love of rugby, there is no doubt that the Fijian team and their fans will receive a very warm welcome to Kamaishi in 2019.”
Fiji Rugby CEO, John O’Connor, added; “The Webb Ellis Cup is a huge symbol of the sport that we all love and one that all Rugby World Cup nations compete fearlessly for every four years.
“To have the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour grace our shores and pay a personal visit to Rugby House is indeed a huge honour and a very important one as it reminds us of what is at stake in Japan. The FRU Management, our coaching panel and our players know of the huge challenge ahead of us and the hard yards we need to put into preparation so we can be competitive at Rugby World Cup 2019.”
The Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour inspires 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.
The ninth Rugby World Cup takes place from 20 September-2 November 2019 and will be the first time the tournament is hosted in Asia. With Fiji already qualified, seventeen teams are confirmed for Japan 2019 with the remaining three qualifiers to be confirmed by November 2018.
Fiji has played in all Rugby World Cup tournaments to date, with the exception of 1995 when they did not qualify. Next year in Japan, a competitive Pool D awaits as Fiji face Australia, Wales, Georgia and Uruguay. The Fijian side will be eager to match or better their previous best performances, reaching the quarter finals in the inaugural 1987 and 2007 tournaments.