Japan’s historic city of Kyoto is at the heart of the rugby world this week as it plays host to key World Rugby meetings, culminating in the Rugby World Cup 2019™ pool draw at the iconic State Guest House on 10 May.

Kyoto, famed for its Sakura (Cherry Blossom), a symbol of new beginnings and the birthplace of rugby in the Kansai region, will host rugby’s decision-makers for a schedule of meetings that includes Rugby World Cup Limited Board, World Rugby EXCO and World Rugby Council meetings.

With Japan preparing to host Asia’s first Rugby World Cup, and the global game experiencing record participation (8.5 million) and fan-base (300 million) growth and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland set to inspire a new generation of players, the meetings come at an exciting time for the sport.

As the game grows and evolves, World Rugby continues to look to the future, making strategic and consultative decisions to safeguard the future prosperity of the sport with the Council considering rugby’s eligibility regulation, governing qualification for international representation.

The Rugby World Cup Limited Board will also review hosting preparation for Rugby World Cup 2019 and the latest from the candidate phase of the Rugby World Cup 2023 host selection process as the race to host rugby’s showcase event enters the home straight.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “This is an exciting and defining year for our sport as we look to further the competition and regulatory framework that will provide the platform for rugby to continue to sustainably grow in both established and emerging markets.

“Set against a backdrop of strong participation and fan growth, we have achieved agreement on a long-term optimised global calendar that provides certainty and stability over the decade beyond Rugby World Cup 2019, which is a major milestone. This week we will consider the game’s eligibility framework following a detailed review of the criteria governing international representation.

“As rugby grows, we need to ensure that it continues to be relevant and inspiring to the next generation of players and fans. Everyone has a say and everyone has a role to play in our future.

“I would like to thank our friends from the Japan Rugby Football Union, Japan Rugby 2019 organising committee and Japanese rugby community for their warm welcome and look forward to the week ahead.”

The meetings take place at an exciting time for rugby in Asia, where participation across the region has almost doubled since 2009 to more than 500,000 players. A further 610,700 children participated into Get Into Rugby activities in 2016. Later this month IMPACT Beyond RWC 2019 will be launched, an ambitious project to sustainably support and grow rugby participation in Asia, targeting one million new players by Rugby World Cup 2019.

Japan Rugby 2019 organising committee CEO Akira Shimazu added: “We welcome these important meetings that consider the future of rugby, including here in Asia, being hosted in Japan alongside the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw.

“The unique significance and opportunity of hosting Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan lies in further spreading rugby in Asia and ensuring rugby is a truly global sport. We will continue to work with World Rugby and Rugby World Cup Limited to build a robust and sustainable legacy through the successful delivery of Rugby World Cup 2019, the first  in Asia.”