IRB in favour of HK as World Cup venue
Matches may be played here if Japan wins bid
World boss Bernard Lapasset yesterday backed Hong Kong's involvement as a host in the 2015 World Cup - provided Japan wins the rights to stage the tournament.
'We have no problems if Japan decides to give Hong Kong a few games. It is up to Japan to come up with a plan that works,' said Lapasset, chairman of the International Rugby Board and Rugby World Cup Ltd.
'It is important to promote rugby around the world and we will have no objections to groups being played outside Japan.
'It has been done before, last year's World Cup was hosted by France, but we had games in Wales and Scotland, too.'
Japan is one of four countries who have expressed an interest in hosting the 2015 World Cup - or the 2019 World Cup. Other bids could come from South Africa, England and Scotland.
The IRB council, which met in Hong Kong yesterday, formally approved the move to decide the hosts for the next two tournaments - 2015 and 2019 - next July. The 2011 World Cup will be hosted by New Zealand.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post earlier this year, Japan rugby supremo Nobby Mashimo promised Hong Kong would host a few group games if his country won the 2015 bid.
'If we are given the rights to host the 2015 World Cup, and if the IRB allows, we will want to include other venues like Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore and Bangkok in our plans,' said Mashimo, chairman of the Japan Rugby Football Union.
'Of course it will all depend on whether the IRB will allow us to invite other unions to host games, or if they will want all the games to be played in Japan,' he said. 'But they [the IRB] fully understand our intentions with regard to globalisation and developing rugby in Asia.'
While welcoming Lapasset's views, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union said the first goal was to ensure Japan wins it's bid for the 2015 World Cup.
'It is great news that the IRB will have no objections if Japan wish to spread the games around. But our first target is to help Japan get the 2015 World Cup,' said Allan Payne, HKRFU executive director. 'We supported them last time and we will do everything possible to help them. Of course, we would like to think that some part of it can be played in Hong Kong and we are at the front of the queue.'
Japan lost the bid to host the 2011 World Cup by one vote to New Zealand in a secret ballot. There was dismay at the decision with observers saying it was a retrograde step in moves to globalise the game.
The IRB council, which met in Tung Chung, decided the World Cups of 2015 and 2019 would be decided at the same time so as to give members more flexibility in taking a bold step like awarding the tournament to a non-traditional country.
'By voting on two World Cups at the same time, it gives members more room to look at a non-traditional country hosting the tournament,' Lapasset said. 'It will also give the hosts more time to put in place the commercial aspects.'
The IRB will start the tender process this month, and Lapasset revealed Japan would be a bidder.
'The success of the Rugby World Cup since its inception in 1987 has been remarkable. It has grown into one of the top five sporting events in the world. The 2007 World Cup generated a surplus of #120 million (HK$1.8 billion) and enjoyed a cumulative global TV audience of four billion,' Lapasset said.