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12:36 14 February 2017

Rugby: Special number plates to be issued to promote RWC 2019

By Rich Freeman
TOKYO, Feb. 14, Kyodo

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics occupying most of the headlines, Rugby World Cup 2019 has so far struggled to grab the attention of the Japanese public.

A recent survey by the Tokyo metropolitan government showed that 45 percent of residents in the capital do not know Japan will host the tournament.

But a new initiative launched Monday in conjunction with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism should soon see a lot more people become aware that the world's third biggest sporting event will be hosted across Japan a year before the Olympics come to Tokyo.

For the first time in history, the transport ministry will allow special commemorative automobile license plates -- featuring the official logo of RWC 2019 -- to be issued nationwide.

Until now, Japanese license plates have not featured any designs other than the standard format mandated by law.

"It's great for us to be involved in this innovative initiative to help publicize and commemorate Rugby World Cup 2019 and our thanks go to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism," Japan Rugby 2019 Chief Executive Akira Shimazu said in a press release.

"This will help to raise the tournament's profile and to stress just how big it is for Japan to be hosting one of the world's biggest and most popular sporting events."

The plates will be available from April 3 and proceeds raised by the initiative will be directed into improvements to local transportation infrastructure in the 12 cities that are hosting matches during the tournament, which runs from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2, 2019.

"With the help of the nation, Rugby World Cup 2019 is going to be the best and one that will leave a lasting legacy for the sport in Japan and throughout Asia," Shimazu said.

Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan is the ninth edition of rugby's showcase global event and the first in Asia.

Over 2.47 million tickets were sold for the 2015 tournament in England and an estimated 460,000 fans traveled from overseas, resulting in a 2 billion pound ($2.5 billion) injection into the economy.

Organizers are hoping the 2019 tournament will be of a similar scale.

"As a low-investment, high-return event, Japan 2019 will deliver multiple sporting, economic and social benefits on a national and regional basis over the six weeks of competition," said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont on a visit to Tokyo in October 2016.

"Up to 400,000 international visitors and 40,000 new jobs have been forecast to contribute to an expected economic output of up to 2.3 billion pounds."

==Kyodo

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