Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama, one of next year’s Rugby World Cup venues, reopened on Saturday after redevelopment works were completed in time for the special Top League match between the Panasonic Wild Knights and Canon Eagles. The Wild Knights, the home side, won the hard-fought match 25-6.
With the much-anticipated World Cup tournament, the first in Asia, only a year away, all eyes were firmly on the new look of one of Japan’s traditional rugby venues, and the match attracted a healthy crowd of 13,849 despite the fact that two other heavyweight clashes, namely the J-League’s Urawa Red Diamonds v Kashima Antlers FC and baseball’s Saitama Seibu Lions v Softbank Hawks in the Pacific League play-off series, were also being held almost simultaneously in Saitama.
Among the many improvements that were present, the new Main Stand with the magnificent roof was surely seen as the centrepiece as spectators flocked to take photos before the match. According to the region’s local newspaper, Saitama Shimbun, Kiyoshi Ueda, Saitama’s governor, said: “You can hear the players breathing in this stadium. We are all thrilled and looking forward to seeing the world’s best players coming to Kumagaya and fighting for every ball in the World Cup.”
The stadium now has a capacity of 24,000 and will host Russia v Samoa (Pool A) on September 24, Georgia v Uruguay (Pool D) on September 29, and Argentina v USA (Pool C) on October 9. The stadium previously had the same capacity but with only 9,232 seats installed and 4,828 in the standing area, and the rest in the grass hill seating area so the authorities decided to make it an all-seater stadium to meet the World Cup standards.
Images: The Stadium Hub/Naoki Tsukushi
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