World Rugby officials seeking answers from Japan

Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:07am EDT
 
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By Julian Linden

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - World Rugby officials are seeking urgent talks with organizers of the 2019 rugby World Cup following Friday's surprise announcement that Japan's proposed new national stadium won't be ready in time for the tournament.

The 80,000-seat stadium in Tokyo, which is also the centerpiece of the 2020 Olympics, was scheduled to host the biggest matches in 2019, including the opening game and the final of the first rugby World Cup awarded to Asia.

But those plans were all thrown out the window on Friday when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the original stadium design was being scrapped because of escalating costs.

With construction yet to begin and the project now on hold while the Japanese government decides on a cheaper model, Abe conceded the stadium would not be ready for the rugby World Cup.

"We will not make it in time," Abe told a news conference.

Friday's shock announcement seemingly caught World Rugby officials by surprise, coming just months after they had publicly announced that the new Tokyo stadium would host the final.

"World Rugby is extremely disappointed by today's announcement that the new National Stadium will not be ready to host Rugby World Cup 2019 matches despite repeated assurances to contrary from the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee and Japan Sports Council," World Rugby said in a statement on Friday.

"The National Stadium was a compelling and important pillar of Japan's successful bid to host Rugby World Cup 2019, which was awarded to the Japan Rugby Football Union in 2009."   Continued...

 
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters after meeting with Yoshiro Mori (not in picture), Japan's former Prime Minister and president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of Olympic and Paralympic games, at Abe's official residence in Tokyo July 17, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino