World Cup will 'revive' Japan
Japan's hosting of the 2019 World Cup will re-ignite interest in the sport in the country.
Japan's hosting of the 2019 World Cup will re-ignite interest in the sport in the country, International Rugby Board Chief Executive Brett Gosper told AFP.
The 54-year-old Australian - a high class centre who played for top flight French club Racing Club de France (now Racing Metro) from 1981-90 - said it was important to do so in a country that had historically been a rugby nation.
"The World Cup can re-ignite the latent rugby interest in Japan," he said.
"In recent times it has come under pressure from baseball and football but Japan has traditionally had a lot of heart and passion for rugby.
"There is a lot of corporate interest in the sport and a lot of young people play it, for instance it is very popular in the universities.
"However, it has lost a bit of its currency in recent years and the World Cup can re-ignite that."
Gosper, a former leading advertising executive who worked in France, England and Germany, said Japan hosting the tournament, which he termed the third largest sporting event in the world, could only help spread rugby's appeal in Asia.
"Asia obviously has the largest youth population in the world," he said.
"Thus the hosting of the World Cup in Japan will we hope help rugby grow in Asia as well."
Gosper, who has been in his present post since July 2012, said the next few years for the sport were going to be very important ones with the 2015 World Cup being hosted by England and the following year it makes its return in the shape of the sevens game to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"As Sebastian Coe said, with those two events following on each other, the combined noise will be enormous," he said.
Gosper said that far from stealing the XV discipline's thunder, as some have commented, the huge popularity of the Sevens game was helping it.
"Sevens is an easier version to globalise, hence it being the Olympic sport," he said.
"It is easy on the eye, it is less complicated and it is continuous.
"It is if you will a sampling for the XV version. People, whether they are spectators or players, who get into sevens are likely to move on to the XV version.
"Just as touch rugby leads to an interest in sevens, so the latter feeds an interest in XV's."
Gosper, a former Australians Under-21 international who was on the cusp of breaking into the senior side until he left for Europe, admitted the sevens format was easier for more countries to be competitive in but that it also helped their XV teams.
"It is easier to become more competitive in sevens, you need less resources," he said.
"However, that doesn't stop countries who are becoming competitive in that discipline from staying in the XV game, like Canada for instance.
"Sevens is helping XV's as it is putting more talent into rugby....thanks to that all the boats rise.
"For me it gives the profile of rugby the halo effect."
On other matters, Gosper said he would welcome Ireland bidding to host the 2023 World Cup.
However, he implied they could face stiff opposition as there are several countries who have declared an interest in a competition which he says brings in 90 to 92% of the IRB's income, including allegedly the United States.
"It is the fastest growing team sport in the United States," he said.
"Whereas before it was viewed with a certain amount of suspicion now that it is an Olympic sport it has given it that stamp of approval.
"Ireland would do a terrific job, it has the rugby culture and the infrastructure plus it is geographically well placed."