World Rugby concluded its third set of tournament review meetings in Tokyo this weekend, as the two-year countdown to the tournament draws closer.
Since the last round of meetings in June, the focus of tournament preparation moved from foundation planning to operational readiness, and the World Rugby delegation reiterated to the Japan Rugby 2019 organising committee the importance of this phase in determining the success of the tournament.
During a busy schedule of meetings, World Rugby undertook a detailed evaluation of all operational areas in partnership with the organising committee, which included team services, venues, ticketing, tournament budgets and host city operations. And they made it clear to Japan that some things were well behind where they expected them to be, with a major hold-up being their delay in selecting adequate training fields for teams.
Rugby World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin said the review meetings were critical to evaluating and guiding progress towards delivering what will be the biggest event to be hosted in Japan this decade.
"Every Rugby World Cup has unique opportunities and challenges in delivery and Japan represents the opportunity to deliver a special and ground-breaking event," he said. "The next few months will be critical to the ultimate success of the tournament with the match schedule and ticketing programme set to be finalised and announced before the end of the year.
"There are some areas where the organising committee has not progressed as much as we would expect by this stage and, with a core focus on delivering a compelling and competitive Rugby World Cup with teams at heart, the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee recognise that they need to accelerate the selection of training venues. These venues must be of a world-class standard that provide the platform for the players to perform at their best.
"We have reminded our friends at the organising committee that there is no time to lose with two years to go. All stakeholders, including government and host cities, will need to continue to play their full part to ensure a successful event that advances rugby on the domestic and global stage and shows the very best of Japan as a host to the world."
The Rugby World Cup 2019 two-year countdown celebrations will commence with a dedicated festival and Webb Ellis Cup roadshow that will kick off in Tokyo on September 20 and will see the trophy visit all 12 host cities and Top League clubs over a 46-day period.
The match schedule and full ticketing programme is set to be announced in November.
Photo by: PATRICK BOLGER/GETTY IMAGES (Caption: Rugby World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin says Japan needs to get a move on, particularly in their selection of training fields).