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Volume 7 No. 149
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Rugby Players Warned To Cover Tattoos At 2019 World Cup

Rugby players will cover tattoos in public places like pools and gyms at RWC 2019.

The world's top rugby players "will be warned to cover up tattoos in public" while at the World Cup in Japan next year to avoid causing offense, according to Alex Lowe of the LONDON TIMES. All the participating nations have begun to receive education from World Rugby on the customs of which they must "be aware" while in Japan, which include "covering up tattoos when in a public place such as a swimming pool or a gym." Tattoos are associated with the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, and players "will have to cover up when mixing with the public, although not in matches." There will be no World Cup rules in place but RWC Tournament Dir Alan Gilpin said that "they would not be necessary." Gilpin: "We won't force any teams to cover up but they want to, because they want to be seen to be respecting the culture." He added that players will also have to "get used to wearing different trainers indoors and outdoors, as per Japanese custom" (LONDON TIMES, 9/20). The BBC reported Gilpin said that there have been "no objections from teams." He said, "When we raised it with the teams a year or so ago, we were probably expecting a frustrated reaction from them, but there hasn't been at all. ... The idea of putting a rash-vest [shirt used for watersports] on in the pool or in a gym, they will buy into as they want to respect the Japanese culture. We'll position it as self-policing." In '16, Japan's tourism agency called on spas in the country to "relax their rules," pointing out that there are "major cultural differences between how tattoos are viewed at home and abroad" (BBC, 9/20).

OCEANIA REACTION: STUFF's Olivia Caldwell reported the All Blacks will "respect Japanese culture by covering up tattoos" as requested by Rugby World Cup 2019 directors and World Rugby. New Zealand Rugby Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass said that the All Blacks "always respect local customs and cultures when touring." Cass: "When any of our teams tour, we endeavor to be respectful of the local customs and culture, and this will be no different when we visit Japan both this year and next year" (STUFF, 9/20). In Sydney, Georgina Robinson reported the Wallabies are "no strangers to cultural protocols in Japan" and will have "no issues covering up tattoos in public places and baths at next year's World Cup." A team spokesperson said that the team will "happily observe cultural protocols" next month when it meets the All Blacks in Yokohama, and again during the World Cup (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 9/20).

CONTINGENCY PLAN: In London, Mick Cleary reported World Rugby made contingency plans for disruption to the fixture schedule at next year's World Cup, "with a possible extension of the pool stages if the tournament were to be hit by the sort of extreme weather that has afflicted the area in recent weeks." Gilpin believes that planning for "typhoon-vulnerable" Japan makes next year's tournament "the most challenging" it has staged, with volatile weather conditions "a real hot topic." The typhoons and earthquakes that have hit the region in recent weeks would "almost certainly" lead to relocation of teams. Contingencies have already been drawn up for the postponement of any matches that might be affected. The "silver lining in the gloomy prognosis" is that Japan is "well-versed in coping with such situations," with organizers pointing out that the country experiences 480 earthquakes a year (TELEGRAPH, 9/19).

'FORCE FOR SPORTING CHANGE': REUTERS' Jack Tarrant reported World Rugby Chair Bill Beaumont "stressed the importance to the entire region of next year's tournament." He said, "The decision to award the ninth Rugby World Cup to Asia was made because in World Rugby we believed the opportunity would be great in Japan and we also believed in Japan. We knew the event could be a force for sporting change, to ignite and grow rugby across this most populous and youthful continent." Japan Rugby Football Union President Tadashi Okamura was also "keen to stress the importance of representing the whole of Asia throughout the tournament." Okamura: "It is our mission as the hosts to help (Asian) teams become stronger but also to propagate the spirit of rugby throughout Asia" (REUTERS, 9/20).