Japan to harness HK spotlight for 2011 bid
'It shows how much Asia is contributing and wants to contribute to world rugby'
Japan's push to host the 15-a-side World Cup in 2011 will gather pace next week with former Japanese prime minister Yoshihiro Mori leading the country's 'Asian Day' promotional campaign during Hong Kong's sevens showpiece.
It is the first time an Asian country is vying for rugby's premier tournament. South Africa and New Zealand are also in the running.
But the Asian rugby powerhouses will not be able to flaunt their bid overtly due to strict International Rugby Board guidelines. It is understood the Japanese had wanted to promote their bid at the stadium and also hold a huge reception at Sports House, next to the stadium. However, the IRB has informed them they would not be able to promote their bid for the 2011 World Cup - which Hong Kong wants to be part of - at the stadium during the World Cup Sevens.
'They can do anything under their own auspices but it can't be at the stadium during the World Cup,' said IRB communications manager Greg Thomas.
JRFU secretary Koji Tokumasu said: 'Originally we were to book Sports House which is next to the Hong Kong Stadium and run our campaign there. But we had some problems and we are not going to do anything World Cup related at the stadium or at Sports House. Instead, we will have an Asian Day function on the opening day of the World Cup on March 18 at the sports bar inside the stadium.' Former Waseda University player Mori, who was prime minister before incumbent Junichiro Koizumi, was confirmed yesterday as head of the Japanese delegation.
'But we are stressing it is an Asian Day, rather than a Japan 2011 World Cup bid. With Hong Kong holding the World Cup Sevens, and with our bid for 2011, it shows how much Asia is contributing and wants to contribute to world rugby,' said Tokumasu.
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, which will take over the sports bar during the World Cup Sevens to fete officials and their guests, has agreed to share the facilities with their Japanese counterparts for the promotional campaign on the first day of the tournament.
The HKRFU revealed last October it had approached the Japanese and asked them if they could host part of the 2011 World Cup if the 'Asian' bid was successful. Hong Kong wants to host a pool as well as one quarter-final at the 40,000-seater Hong Kong Stadium.
'It is do-able,' HKRFU chairman John Molloy said then. 'We have asked the Japanese if we could also be involved and suggested the possibility of being a venue for one pool as well as a quarter-final. It is early days, but we have made our intentions known.'
Japan hold a slight edge over the other two unions as the World Cup has never been held in Asia. Molloy said he believed the IRB could plump for Japan for this reason and in a bid to promote rugby around the world. The IRB will decide in November on who will host the 2011 tournament.
Meanwhile, the Japan team at the World Cup Sevens will not wear the country's 2011 bid logo on their jerseys. Although the IRB has granted permission for Japan teams to wear the logo during a test match, they will be prevented from doing that next week.
'It is a promotional tool and we won't allow teams to promote their bids at the World Cup,' Thomas said. 'There has to be a clean look on their jerseys. The only logo they can wear is their national crest.'
South African Super 12 sides are wearing the country's 2011 bid logo on their shorts. With the precedent established, Japan was also given permission to wear a logo - a red ball rising like the sun over a set of goalposts.
This logo is being worn by teams at every level of competition in Japan - and will also be worn by the 15-a-side test team. But not their sevens counterparts.