Japan launches World Cup bid

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The Independent Online

Japan may not be big in the world of rugby, but they are one of the giants of the world economy and they have one or two larger than life figures in the sport backing their bid to stage the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

England's World Cup-winning captain, Martin Johnson, and the All Black wing Jonah Lomu have both lent their support to the Japanese cause.

Given the global economic status of the Land of the Rising Sun, the International Rugby Board might be well advised to put its own political agenda to one side and award the 2011 jamboree to Japan on 17 November. The 2003 tournament in Australia generated somewhere in the region of £50m for the game. France in 2007 is expected to produce a surplus of £70m to £80m. Given the global resources of their leading industrial groups, and their enterprise culture, the Japanese could be expected to hand the IRB in excess of £100m.

Yesterday the Japanese RFU launched its bid with Yoshiji Nogami, the ambassador for Japan to the United Kingdom, challenging the IRB's stated aim of turning rugby union into a global sport. "The game cannot afford to circulate successive World Cup tournaments among the 'usual suspects'," he said.

"If the IRB truly wants rugby to become a global sport then they will make a sympathetic judgment in our favour."

The 212-page tender document is going up against bids from South Africa - fronted by that country's World Cup winning captain, Francois Pienaar, and New Zealand, who pulled out of a proposed share of the 2003 tournament with Australia.

The Japanese point to the success of the 2002 football World Cup - when they were joint hosts with South Korea - and can also draw on the experience of staging summer and winter Olympics.

There are nine stadiums, with capacities ranging from a modest 19,694 at the Sendai Stadium, to the impressive 72,327-capacity Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, where the final would be staged.

New Zealand can offer four substantial arenas, with Eden Park in Auckland having the greatest capacity - 45,000 - and Carisbrooke, in Dunedin, the lowest, at 34,000.

The England back row Joe Worsley is expected to miss the autumn internationals after injuring medial ligaments in his knee against Sale on Friday. The Wasps flanker is expected to be out for up to six weeks.

* The Bath players Andrew Higgins and David Barnes were banned for a fortnight last night. They will miss their club's opening Heineken Cup games against Leinster and Bourgoin. Higgins was sent off during Bath's 18-16 Guinness Premiership win over Gloucester on Saturday after receiving two yellow cards. Barnes struck an opponent when Bath beat the Ospreys eight days ago. Both players pleaded guilty.

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