Countdown to kickoff: Japan's rugby history one year out from the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Key information

5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)
Alumni Lecture Theatre (SALT)
Event type
Event highlights

About this event

Speakers: Helen Macnaughtan (SOAS), J. Simon Rofe (SOAS), Phil McGowan (World Rugby Museum, Twickenham), Simon Chadwick (Salford University Manchester), Hilary Frank (Cornwall Council)

Photo caption: 'Yokohama 1874 Print' courtesy of World Rugby Museum, Twickenham


Japan will host the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019, scheduled for 20th September to 2nd November 2019, with 48 matches to be played in 12 venues across Japan. Held every four years since 1987, Japan’s hosting of the event will mark the first time the Rugby World Cup is held in Asia.

This SOAS event, exactly one year out from the start of the 2019 fixtures, will reflect on the history of rugby in Japan and the potential impact of hosting this sports mega-event.

Event recording


Session one: 'The Birth of Japanese Rugby, 1899-1939' by Phil McGowan (World Rugby Museum, Twickenham) and Mike Galbraith (De Montfort University)

The presentation will detail how rugby first arrived in Japan, and its subsequent growth and development during the pre-war decades. The early development of rugby will be placed within a wider social context as well as introduce key characters integral to history of the game in Japan.

Session two: 'Balls of Steel: Japanese Rugby in the Post-war Decades' by Helen Macnaughtan (SOAS)

This presentation will consider the development and popularity of rugby in Japan, from the post-war decades to the present day. It will focus on the sport’s domestic connections to both university teams and in particular corporate teams from the Japanese iron and steel industry, and finish by reflecting on the growing international presence of Japanese rugby.

Session three: 'The Economics and Business of Japan’s 2019 Rugby World Cup' by Simon Chadwick (Salford University Manchester)

The presentation will initially identify some of the reasons why nations bid to host sports mega-events, and then go on to identify a range of costs and benefits associated with such event hosting. Thereafter, the presentation will explore some of the key economic and business issues associated with the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Session four: Japan: the Land of the Rising Scrum by Hilary Frank (Cornwall Council)

This presentation will begin with the Nagano Winter Olympics 1998, giving insight into how the organising committee was driven by local government and providing some 'behind the scenes' anecdotes.  It will then move to focus on the 2002 Japan/Korea FIFA World Cup and offer a short compare and contrast analysis of the IOC with FIFA from the perspective of an organising committee.  Finally, the presentation will reflect on Japan's participation in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the outlook for 2019.

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre, SOAS Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy and Japan Foundation London

Sponsor: Toshiba International Foundation

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