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 May 22 2014 ISN – This weekend, Japan and Hong Kong go head-to-head in Tokyo for the Asian 5 Nations 2014 crown with the match carrying extra spice as the winner will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Asia 1.

So apart from both teams’ fans, the match will also be closely watched by supporters of other teams in the affected pool with Asia 1 joining South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and USA in England next year. And to that end, the match will be streamed live and free of charge on www.rugbyworldcup.com.

In what promises to be a special day for Japanese sport, the iconic Webb Ellis Cup will be present at the National Stadium in Tokyo for what will be the last ever event in that much-loved venue before it is completely redeveloped ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Olympic Games 2020.

Japan will go into the match as clear favourites, having won the Asian 5 Nations title every year since the tournament’s inception in 2008, but Hong Kong have put together a high-quality campaign so far, beating the Philippines, Korea and Sri Lanka ahead of this decider. Hong Kong have never qualified for a Rugby World Cup before so it would be an historic result if the home team were overturned.

On the other hand, Japan are veterans of the Game’s showpiece tournament, having participated in all seven editions of Rugby World Cup to date and expectation will be very high among the Brave Blossoms’ passionate fan base.

Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “This match is extremely important for both sides. Japan will want to show the world that they are a serious force ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup and, of course, as they prepare to become the first Asian nation to host the event four years later.”

“And Hong Kong will want to make history and turn the Asian Rugby order around by qualifying for their first-ever Rugby World Cup. It is therefore entirely fitting that the famous Webb Ellis Cup will be on show in the build-up to and during the match as it will show the players and fans what is ultimately at stake.”

“These two teams have shown themselves to be the best in Asia this year and I am expecting a fast, exciting match in front of a passionate and knowledgeable Japanese crowd. May the better team on the day win and I’m sure whoever it is will grace the venues of Rugby World Cup 2015 with aplomb next year.”

“We have noticed Rugby continuing to go from strength to strength in Asia. Matches like this serve to reinforce that growth as we seek to reach out to more players and fans than ever before.”

“This growth is testament to the IRB’s commitment to grow the Game beyond its traditional heartlands and the hard work of the Member Unions themselves in conjunction with ARFU.”

“Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport, and through the global qualification process there is a clear pathway and opportunity for every IRB Member Union to play at that level.”

The match will be streamed live at www.rugbyworldcup.com from 17:00 local time (BST +8). This week is also the start of the England Rugby 2015 official trophy tour with the Cup travelling to 15 countries before arriving in England for the final countdown to Rugby’s pinnacle tournament. For more information about the trophy tour go to www.rugbyworldcup.com.

About Rugby World Cup:

In total, the Rugby World Cup qualifying process features 83 nations. The qualifiers comprise more than 200 matches, made up of around 3,000 players across six continents, including the strategic markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China as well as USA, Canada and Mexico.

Rugby participation has increased by 18 per cent since RWC 2007 owing to IRB investment that comes from RWC finances, the positive effect of being included in the programme for the Olympic Games 2016 and the global reach of the Game’s flagship tournament.

Rugby World Cup provides an international stage to promote Rugby and generates 95 per cent of the revenue the IRB invests in achieving its strategic goals, including growing the global Game. Therefore the success of the tournament is vital for achieving the IRB strategic goals.

England was awarded RWC 2015 as it offers a mature Rugby market which is likely to generate strong spectator numbers and significant financial returns. Large iconic venues, an experienced host Union, the UK major event infrastructure and a prime commercial Rugby market provide an ideal platform to host the Rugby World Cup.

This tournament also offers an important opportunity to continue the development of RWC tournament planning and delivery models and opportunities to grow the Game across Europe.

Looking further ahead, growing the Game is a key consideration for RWC 2019 in Japan. Asia is a critical market for future growth and Japan is the traditional leader of Rugby in Asia. The JRFU has made significant professional developments in recent years and is well-placed to host such an important event.

A successful tournament in Japan has the potential to generate significant interest in the Game in Asia and ignite a lucrative commercial Rugby market. With 60 per cent of the global population and 80 per cent of the world’s youth living in Asia, this interest could have a considerable impact on the development of global Rugby.

Awarding RWC 2019 to Japan 10 years prior to delivery provides an adequate time scale, if used properly, to prepare the framework to host the tournament in a developing market.

The scale of Rugby World Cup and the importance of using RWC tournaments to achieve wider strategic goals of key stakeholders demand a clear strategic approach for each tournament. These must integrate the IRB goals with those of other key stakeholders, providing a framework for decision making and measuring success.

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