TOKYO May 11 – The International Rugby Board has rallied behind Japan's preparations to host the rugby World Cup in 2019, despite an earthquake and tsunami which ravaged the country's northeast coast two months ago.The March 11 disaster, coupled with a crisis at a crippled nuclear power plant, has already forced rugby union’s world governing body to move five of the six Pacific Nations Cup matches in July from Japan to Fiji.
But IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "We are all right behind the Japan rugby community and the tournament and I have no doubt that Rugby World Cup 2019 will be a tournament that Japan and the global rugby family will be proud of."
The statement was made to Japanese media on Tuesday at the end of a visit to Tokyo by Lapasset and Rugby World Cup Limited managing director Mike Miller, the first since the quake and tsunami, the IRB said in a press release.
"Some countries were saying the 2019 tournament should be held elsewhere, but I think we’ve managed to further our understanding with the IRB," Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) president Yoshiro Mori told Japanese media.
The multiple catastrophe has disrupted Japan’s sporting calendar, suspending J-League matches and delaying the start of the immensely popular professional baseball season.
The world figure skating championships were moved from Tokyo to Moscow, having been postponed by one month to be held in late April. Japan’s Miki Ando won her second women’s world title to help lift her country’s spirits.
Lapasset said: "The thoughts and sympathies of the global rugby family are with the people of Japan and all those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami."
"Japan has experienced significant heartache and challenges over the past few months, challenges that have affected the everyday lives of the Japanese people and the Japan rugby community," he said.
"Rugby is built on the values of solidarity and friendship and I know that the JRFU has been overwhelmed by the messages of support and sympathy from the global rugby family."