World Rugby has announced that Japan will host two Pacific Nations Cup 2019 matches as part of a readiness program for Rugby World Cup 2019.
With Rugby World Cup fever sweeping across the nation, fans in Japan will have the opportunity to see the Brave Blossoms play two test matches against Fiji in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on July 27 and Tonga at Osaka's Hanazono Rugby Stadium on Aug 3.
The selection of Kamaishi and Hanazono, which will host Fiji and Tonga respectively during Rugby World Cup 2019, provides the opportunity for the cities and fans to build an affinity with teams, while delivering the hosts with an important operational testing platform.
In addition to Japan, Fiji and Tonga, the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2019 will be contested by Rugby World Cup teams Canada, Samoa and USA over three rounds on 27 July, 3 August and 9-10 August 2019 with matches also played in Fiji, Samoa and USA.
Anticipation of a high-quality competition is high with reigning champions Fiji currently eighth in the World Rugby Rankings, Japan 11th, USA a record 12th, Tonga 14th, Samoa 16th and Canada 20th.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “With all roads leading to Rugby World Cup 2019, it is exciting to announce that six participating unions, Canada, Fiji, hosts Japan, Samoa, Tonga and USA will feature in the World Rugby Pacific Cup 2019 line-up.
“This announcement reflects our commitment to provide a strong preparation platform for these unions immediately prior to our showcase event, to build excitement in two host cities and deliver an important program of testing and readiness ahead of Asia’s first Rugby World Cup.”
Japan Rugby Football Union Chairman Noriyuki Sakamoto said: “It is with great pleasure that two Pacific Nations Cup 2019 matches will be held in Japan, just two months before Rugby World Cup 2019 commences. We look forward to welcoming Fiji and Tonga to the match venues of Rugby World Cup 2019, Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate and the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka, respectively.”
Prior to the Pacific Nations Cup, Fiji will host the Pacific Challenge which is an annual World Rugby high performance strategic investment tournament designed to provide high quality competition for development teams featuring players aged 23 and under.
Fiji Warriors have claimed the Pacific Challenge title on the past three occasions and will be looking to continue their winning streak on home soil against Tonga A, Samoa A and Junior Japan. The matches will take place in Suva on 8, 12 and 16 March 2019.
Fiji Airways Flying Fijians Head Coach John McKee said: “The World Rugby Pacific Challenge is a key tournament for Fiji in terms of providing a pathway step for our most talented young players from Fiji’s Academy and U20 programs in their quest to achieve higher honors representing the Flying Fijians.”
Following the Pacific Challenge, the second edition of the "World Rugby Pacific Combine"will take place in Suva, Fiji on 17-24 March 2019 building on the success of its inaugural year in 2018. The World Rugby Pacific Combine is designed to accelerate rugby development in the Pacific, paving the way for the region’s best and brightest rugby talent to thrive on the international stage.
The 2018 edition featured 30 players under the age of 23 from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, who impressed during the World Rugby Pacific Challenge. The Combine features a dedicated education and preparation camp, aimed at developing the next generation of test stars for professional rugby. Of the 30 participants in the inaugural edition, 12 have already gained professional contracts within Drua, Mitre 10, NRC and Super Rugby.
Rugby World Cup 2019 takes place in Japan from 20 September to 2 November 2019. Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets are back on sale on 19 January. In the meantime, Official Supporter Tour and Hospitality packages can be purchased. Full details for the complete range of ticketing options can be found at www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets.© Worldrugby.org