The iconic Webb Ellis Cup has landed in Tokyo to celebrate 100 days to go to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
The trophy, presented since the inaugural Rugby World Cup tournament in 1987, was transported on Emirates flight EK318 from Dubai to Tokyo, arriving to a champion’s welcome.
On touchdown in the host country of Japan, former World Rugby Players of the Year Bryan Habana and Shane Williams stepped out of the Emirates A380 aircraft to present the coveted trophy to Japan 2019 Organising Committee CEO Akira Shimazu, who was accompanied by World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper for the symbolic moment.
The trophy will now embark on a 100-day domestic tour of Japan, taking in all 12 Rugby World Cup host cities as well as historic Kyoto and Hiroshima, visiting some of the most iconic and beautiful destinations in the world. The trophy will visit communities, schools and public spaces, acting as a beacon of engagement for the nation.
Gosper said: “The arrival of the Webb Ellis Cup in the host nation is a symbolic moment for fans, kicking off the final countdown to the tournament. It is extra special on this occasion as Japan 2019 is the first Rugby World Cup in Asia. We thank Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019, Emirates, for their support in bringing this moment to life.
“We have already seen the inspirational impact this iconic trophy has had on its travels across the globe, especially in emerging rugby nations such as India and Brazil, and we look forward to sharing it with all corners of Japan ahead before arriving at Tokyo Stadium for the kick off of Rugby World Cup 2019 on 20 September.”
Rugby World Cup winner Bryan Habana said: “Being able to escort the Webb Ellis Cup, along with fellow rugby legend and World Player of the Year Shane Williams, was a massive privilege and honour. It brought back some amazing memories of being able to lift the trophy at France 2007 and also gave a huge sense of pride knowing that we were tasked with the responsibility of assuring its safe arrival in Japan. Being my first trip to Japan, I couldn’t think of a better experience flying with a world-class airline like Emirates and doing it with such precious cargo.”
Over the past 18 months the trophy has travelled 200,000 miles to visit 19 countries in all corners of the globe, inspiring more than 80,000 people during the largest ever Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour.
In Asia, the Trophy Tour was a key driver of the dedicated Impact Beyond 2019 legacy programme which has attracted more than one million new rugby participants across the continent ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019.
During the journey across the globe, the iconic silverware found itself at a host of the world’s best known landmarks, such as the Taj Mahal (India), the Great Wall of China, Table Mountain (South Africa), Sugarloaf Mountain (Braziil), Santa Monica Pier (USA) and Fiji’s heart shaped Tavarua Island. As well as climbing mountains in South Africa and Brazil, the trophy reached the highest altitude it has ever seen, with a stop at Kala Patthar (5,500m) and a spectacular backdrop of Mount Everest in the Himalayas.
VIEW VIDEO OF RUGBY WORLD CUP TROPHY TOUR IN INDIA >>
Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand Boutros Boutros said: "Rugby World Cup is one of the world’s greatest major sporting events and more than 1.8 million fans are expected to attend the tournament in Japan over a six-week period, with over one third comprised of international fans - the largest ever number in the tournament’s history. With such a global audience, we see Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan as a great platform to share the love for rugby and bring communities together."
To mark the trophy’s arrival, Emirates has announced details of its sponsorship of RWC 2019 in Japan, including the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young fans to join the sport’s showcase event as Official Flag Bearers. As part of the RWC 2019 Emirates Flag Bearers campaign, the airline is offering 10 fans from Japan, aged 10 to 16 years old, the opportunity to lead teams out onto the pitch, and participate in the pre-kick-off anthem ceremonies for the pool stage matches as well as the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, taking place from 20 September until 2 November, 2019 across 12 host cities in Japan. Young rugby fans can look out for the special competition for an opportunity to become a Flag Bearer for one of the world’s largest sports events. Details will be announced shortly.
In addition to the Flag Bearers from Japan, Emirates will be running similar competitions in international markets to recruit youth to join the matches in Japan, from international markets such as the UK, France, Ireland, Argentina, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
With the domestic trophy tour commencing shortly, Emirates is also offering rugby fans a chance to win a range of Emirates-branded RWC 2019 merchandise via a #EKSpotTheTrophy contest to be announced shortly.
Boutros added: “Through our RWC 2019 Emirates Flag Bearers campaign, we are proud to give young rugby enthusiasts an unforgettable experience and a deeper connection to the sport of rugby. This is a part of our greater efforts to encourage fans from Japan and all over the world to come together and celebrate the sport’s centrepiece event."
To help ensure that jet-setting rugby fans do not miss any of the Rugby World Cup 2019 action, Emirates will be screening the competition’s matches live in the air on its dedicated in-flight sports channel Sport 24, available on the airline’s award-winning ice in-flight entertainment system.