[India], Aug 6 (BusinessWire India): Sports Minister of India, Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, launched the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour in India on Monday, welcoming the Webb Ellis Cup to Delhi.
This is the coveted trophy's first visit to India as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour, which is visiting 18 nations in the countdown to Japan 2019, the first Rugby World Cup to be played in Asia.
Rathore, also welcomed World Rugby CEO, Brett Gosper, Asia Rugby President, Aga Hussain; Rugby India President, Numazar Mehta, who joined in a formal celebration to mark the start of the Tour which will also travel to Mumbai and Bhubaneswar.
The event, hosted by former India rugby player and Indian film actor and director Rahul Bose, was attended by Secretary Sports MYAS Govt. of India, Rahul Bhatnagar; Director General Sports Authority of India - SAI, Neelam Kapur; Secretary General IOA, Rajeev Mehta and members of the media, who all shared in the excitement of seeing rugby's greatest prize.
"We are delighted to welcome the Webb Ellis Cup to India as the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2019 gets underway. We are happy to see India included within the 18 nations that will be visited by the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour and welcome World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper and his team to Delhi today as the programme of activity gets underway," said Rathore.
"Rugby has roots and history in India and we are seeing a growing interest in the game across the nation. I am sure that the Trophy Tour, will create further interest among the next generation of rugby players and fans in India as we prepare for the first Rugby World Cup in Asia at Japan 2019. I wish World Rugby and Rugby India the best for their endeavours," he added.
The Trophy Tour aims to engage and excite new and existing rugby fans in the lead up to Japan 2019. Along with India, the Webb Ellis Cup will also visit Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Nepal and Chile for the first time. The tour will also support World Rugby's IMPACT Beyond legacy programme aiming to get 1 million new participants into rugby by 2020.
Research by Nielsen, renowned global information and data agency, found there to be 25.7 million rugby fans in India, the third largest in the world. The last two years has seen the biggest growth and development of rugby across the country, with India ranked first in Asia and third in the world in terms of participation numbers through World Rugby's Get Into Rugby programme, by reaching over 160,000 participants, with 40 per cent female participation in 2017.
The Trophy Tour aims to inspire the next generation of rugby players and follows the addition of the game to the SGFI's National School Games Calendar for the U14, U17 & U19 Boys and Girls categories as well as part of AIU's National University Games calendar.
"We are delighted to bring the Webb Ellis Cup to India for the very first time as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour. We thank the honourable Sports Minister of India, Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, and our colleagues from Asia Rugby and Rugby India for making us so welcome and supporting our efforts to grow the game in India," said Gosper.
"Japan 2019 marks the first time the world's third largest sports event will be hosted in Asia and every effort is being made to maximise this opportunity to grow the sport in the region. Project Asia 1 Million, part of the Impact Beyond legacy programme which set a target of attracting one million new rugby participants by 2020, is making very strong progress with over 500,000 new participants involved already," he added.
Gosper continued, "As rugby continues its unprecedented global growth, with 9.1 million men, women and children playing the sport in 2017, we want to inspire and engage rugby fans and players in India using the excitement of the Webb Ellis Cup and sharing the values and passion of rugby. We are delighted to see rugby become a core sport in National schools and universities and look forward to working with the authorities and our partners to continue to grow the game throughout India."
Continuing their commitment to grow the game, Rugby India - the national governing body for game - is not only supporting the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour but using it as an opportunity to reach out to 50,000 new rugby participants during the first two weeks of August.
All Rugby India affiliated State Associations, Zonal Associations, District Associations, clubs, schools, universities, colleges, communities, corporates and volunteers, will be involved to make it India's biggest Get Into Rugby activation to date. These efforts will not only help to drive participation but galvanise the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour and garner support and interest ahead of Japan 2019.
Rugby India President, Numazar Mehta, said: "Rugby India is fully committed to nurturing new talent and increasing awareness of Rugby across the nation. Rugby has been instrumental in transforming the lives of boys and girls by imparting the strong values which are associated with the sport and we are committed to playing our role in achieving the Asia 1 million goal by 2020."
"It is heart-warming to see so much support from World Rugby, Asia Rugby, Ministry of Sports, SAI, ASI, IOA and our partner Societe Generale, whose collective efforts will ensure that the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour in India is a resounding success," he added.
Mehta continued, "I am certain that all the rugby supporters and sports enthusiasts from across the country are eagerly awaiting the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. On behalf of India, I congratulate Japan and wish them all the very best as they play host to one of the largest sporting events in the world for the first time in Asia."
India is the eighth leg of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour and from Delhi, the Webb Ellis Cup will travel to Mumbai and Bhubaneswar as international celebration of rugby continues.
Rugby World Cup 2019 takes place in 12 host cities across Japan between 20 September and 2 November 2019. Exceptional domestic and global ticketing demand has been seen with more than 2.5 million applications to date and over 400,000 international fans expected to travel to Japan for the tournament. Tickets to all 48 Rugby World Cup 2019 matches will be available in next ballot phase beginning 19 September. (BusinessWire India)