2019 RWC prepares for typhoons, earthquakes

Rugby World Cup trophy (File)
Rugby World Cup trophy (File)

Tokyo - Organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are concerned about it. So are those running next year's rugby World Cup in Japan, which opens in a year with Japan facing Russia on September 20, 2019, in Tokyo. 

The concern? Natural disasters, like earthquakes and typhoons. 

Earlier this month, the strongest typhoon in 25 years hit the western part of the country, killing 11. A few days later, 41 people were killed by a powerful earthquake on the northern island of Hokkaido. 

"It's a real hot topic for us right now," tournament director Alan Gilpin said. 

The quadrennial tournament is a big. It lasts more than six weeks with 20 teams entered in four pools headed New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, and England. Some of the sports lesser powers are also involved like Uruguay, Namibia and Russia. 

"It's a complex piece and something we would do for every tournament," Gilpin said of the contingency planning for extreme weather. "But this one has a heightened sense of realism to it. We have to take it seriously." 

Gilpin pointed out that, though Japan is subject to earthquakes in particular, no country is better equipped to handle them. 

"There's also a heightened sense of comfort that Japan deals with these issues all the time," Gilpin said. "It's not as though we're dealing with a one-off here." 

It's the first time rugby's showcase event will be staged in Asia, having started in 1987 with a World Cup staged jointly by Australia and New Zealand. The tournament has also been hosted across Britain and Ireland, France and South Africa. 

Japan caused the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history with a win over South Africa in England four years ago and have a growing following of fans, adding extra intensity to the opening match. 

The remainder of the opening weekend is set to feature some heavyweight matches, with three-time and defending champion New Zealand meeting South Africa in Yokohama, France playing Argentina in Tokyo, two-time World Cup champion Australia facing Olympics sevens gold medallists Fiji in Sapporo, Irealand and Scotland going head-to-head and England taking on Tonga.

There's already tension rising among some of the leading contenders after South Africa beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time in nine years last weekend and Argentina edged the Wallabies in Australia for the first time since 1983. 

World Rugby chairperson Bill Beaumont said the 2019 edition will be a game changer, with 1.8 million spectators expected to fill stadiums in 12 cities around Japan and the TV broadcast going to a global audience. 

"World Rugby selected Japan as we believed in the tremendous opportunity to further the sport across Asia, and I am delighted to say that with a year to go, we are confident that Japan 2019 will be a very special, successful and game-changing Rugby World Cup," Beaumont said. "It will be the most impactful Rugby World Cup ever, attracting and retaining more than one million new rugby players in Asia."

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