The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be like no other.

There is no small Captain Obvious element to that, this being the first time that the Webb Ellis Cup will be decided in Asia and the first time it will be hosted by a nation outside rugby's old-boy-network top table.

The chances are Japan will do a good job too, but having just returned from a week in the Tokyo-Yokohama conurbation, where all but two of the knockout matches will take place, I worry that the locals will forget to stop and breathe - to actually enjoy it.

This is a big deal for them.


Not as big a deal as hosting the Olympics the following year, but they feel a real sense of duty to get it right. You have to hope this moral obligation to go above and beyond for their visitors does not stop this from being a uniquely Japanese experience.

Not everything has gone to plan.

The delay in the construction of the new national stadium has proven a real niggle, with a semifinal and finals now to be played at Yokohama International Stadium, a big ground that is, in its present state, patently unsuited for rugby.

But a day of press briefings at the Japanese Organising Committee's offices, which was also attended by key World Rugby staff, indicated most things were about where they expected it to be a little less than two years out from the opening ceremony.

The 12 host cities are all keen to make a big impression.

Never have so many business cards been traded in one place at one time before. The smaller cities, those outside the giant populations of Tokyo-Yokohama and Osaka-Kobe, are particularly keen to make a mark.

In a week where World Rugby has been accused of having stripped the romance out of rugby by choosing to back South Africa's bid over Ireland for 2023, they would do well to shout to the rooftops about their decision to host matches in Kamaishi.

The former steel town in Japan's northeast was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. More than six years later the footage remains harrowing.

The city's connection to rugby remains unique in Japan folklore.

Traditionally a game played at universities, the Nippon Steel RFC won eight national championships without a single forward who went to university.

The team was known with both affection and trepidation as the Northern Tough Guys.

Nippon Steel no longer exists as a club, but a new team, the Kamaishi Seawaves hopes to continue the tradition.

Bringing the World Cup to the tiny 16,000-seat Recovery Memorial Stadium should provide a boost for the sport and the city.

There's no question rugby needs a little extra shove in the country.

The Brave Blossoms greatest player, wing Daisuke Ohata who scored a staggering 69 tries in 58 internationals openly admitted that the sport had not managed to keep the new fans it won in 2015.

Beating South Africa at the World Cup had created a surge in interest that was maintained during the 2016 Top League season but crowds have been dropping since.

The World Cup should provide the boost they need to get it back into the mainstream. You just hope they remember to enjoy it because it won't be coming back to these parts for a while.


In all the excitement about the run-scoring feats in the dear old Plunket Shield, I failed to mention Ollie Newton's remarkable feat of securing three wickets in his first four balls of first-class cricket.

He's 29, so he must have driven around the block a view times before finally getting a chance to park up at the Basin.