Rugby World Cup organisers have moved to play down concerns over the state of the pitch at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium, the venue for the final of this year’s competition.
Japan will host the Rugby World Cup from September 20 to November 2. As well as staging the final, Nissan Stadium will host the two semi-finals and a number of group-stage matches.
The venue, which for sponsorship reasons will be known as the International Stadium Yokohama during the World Cup, is also used to host J1 League football matches. Unseasonably wet weather in Yokohama has also impacted the growth of the hybrid-turf pitch at the stadium and there had been doubts over whether the venue would be ready in time for the start of the tournament later this month.
However, organisers told The Guardian newspaper: “With Yokohama we have planned and prepared for the transition from football to rugby and are confident that the playing surface will be in peak condition.
“An integral part of our planning has been the monitoring and analysis of the transition between summer and winter grass types to ensure that the transition in 2019 is managed as optimally as possible.”
Other regions of Japan have suffered from landslides and floods but organisers are confident that the surfaces at all host venues will be up to standard once the World Cup gets underway.
“With more than 2,000 kilometres separating Sapporo in the north and Kumamoto n the south, the seasonal variation across Japan brings added complexity,” they added. “We are prepared and ready to provide a natural, sustainable playing surface and are confident that the turf at all venues will be in peak condition for the tournament.
“All stadia and pitches will be in a condition befitting Rugby World Cup. The organising committee and World Rugby have been working closely with leading global turf experts since 2015 to ensure optimal conditions.”
Nissan Stadium, which also hosted the final of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, was not initially on the venue plan for this year’s Rugby World Cup. However, after plans for Tokyo’s new National Stadium were reworked, Nissan Stadium was drafted in when it became clear that the former would not be ready in time. The new National Stadium will instead open next year ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Image: Rugby World Cup