World Rugby claim there will be 400,000 supporters visiting Japan for the 2019 World Cup, which seems fanciful given the costs of getting there, and it is not exactly a cheap country once you’ve landed. The 2019 World Cup will rather strengthen the impression that it’s becoming increasingly elitist to follow major rugby events.
Cathal O’Reilly, operations manager of Rugby Travel Ireland, estimates that 5,000 to 8,000 will ultimately travel from Ireland, but as ever this will be swelled to maybe 12-15,000 Irish supporters from the Irish diaspora, and Japan’s accessibility from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong etc . . .
This World Cup contrasts with 2011, where so many of the Blarney Army could avail of the huge Irish network in New Zealand and Australia, and there was a greater possibility of getting in and out.
There’s also the language barrier. “We were told there are 127 million in Japan, and only two per cent speak English,” according to O’Reilly. Hence, relatively more may opt for official packages.
Flights only go on sale 11 months before your date of return, so for supporters looking to book their own flights with a view to returning during the pool stages or staying through to the final, flights will come on sale around the end of October through to early December.
A variety of airlines provide flights to Japan from this part of the world, including Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, KLM, British Airways and Turkish Airlines, and they fluctuate in price the more you research. The going rate is normally around €700 to €900 or so, albeit with cheaper options around €400-€500 through flight-buying search engine websites such as Skyscanner.
However, come the World Cup there will be immense demand from Europe for flights to Japan. As it will be peak season for the airlines, they will charge premium prices, secure in the knowledge that huge numbers will be travelling from the UK, France and Ireland.
"Everybody will be looking to travel on the same dates, so flights are going to get very, very busy," according to Robbie Sinnott, sports tours manager with Club Travel.
Many cities in South East Asia can be reached for around €500-600, but Tokyo is generally more. It’s hard to gauge accurately, but those in the trade estimate that flights to Tokyo through, say, Dubai, from the main airlines will be at least €1,200.
According to an English travel agent “£1,000 would be a good deal” for a flight from London to Tokyo. “Hence,£1,500, or €1,700-1,800 wouldn’t be a surprise to go from Dublin with a connection, just because the tournament is on and the demand is going to be there.”
However, there will be countless other options by incorporating another leg/connection in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, which could bring the cost down.
Hotels in Japan are of a good quality, but generally quite expensive, especially around Tokyo and of course, like hotels the world over, have no compunction about charging extortionate prices, be it tripling or even quadrupling their prices. Take, for example, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, hotel prices are ramped up, and it looks as if the World Cup will be in tune with that.
Some four and five star hotels in Tokyo are already charging €1,000 or more per night. Nothing is a giveaway, but compared to some of the smaller cities, good four star hotels in Tokyo and Yokohama will cost around €400 per night, and €250 to €300 for three star.
All of this is demonstrated by the accompanying packages being offered by the various travel agents, the costs for which are overwhelmingly swelled by hotel prices.
Also, it’s worth noting that twin rooms are commonplace, whereas double rooms are very limited. For example, of 400 rooms in one five-star hotel, only 30 are double rooms.
The way Ireland’s itinerary works out, the only possible flight included in the various packages is from Fukuoka, the venue for Ireland’ final pool game, back to Tokyo for the quarter-finals.
“Ireland has been really lucky in the way their fixtures have panned out in comparison to nearly every other nation,” says O’Reilly. “We start on the east coast of the country, work our way west, before flying back for the quarter-finals. There’s a nice really flow.”
"Hotels, coaches and anywhere you need travel guides, are all very expensive," says Paddy Baird, managing director of Killester Travel.
It pays to book them in advance, but supporters will need to make sure they are on the right schedule, especially when working out connecting trains. Unlike the laissez-faire timetables in, for example, Ireland, Japanese train timetables are very precise. They have a system and the system works. If your departure is at 12.57, that means it will be at, well, 12.57.
According to O’Reilly, last November one of the train companies felt compelled to issue a public apology, which was relayed on the national tv news, because one of their trains left 20 seconds early.
Again very expensive, but all travel operators advise against eating or drinking in hotels. The same dishes can vary depending on what regions they are made and served in, and thus can taste completely different.
“Try the local beer, Sapporo,” suggests O’Reilly. “It was a firm favourite when we were over there.”
All packages are still subject to variations in prices depending on the costs of flights which cannot be booked until 11 months before the date of return.
As in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, there are three official travel agents for the World Cup in Ireland, namely Rugby Travel Ireland (www.rugbytravelireland.com), Killester Travel (www.killestertravel.com) and Club Travel (www.clubtravel.ie).
Rugby Travel Ireland have 14 different packages. “We have a combination of everything,” says O’Reilly.
All told, they have already sold about three quarters of their packages. Their most popular is their ‘Ninja Tour’, a 10-night stay which takes in Ireland’s opening two pool games against Scotland and Japan, at €5,350, with a single supplement of €2,250.
Their cheapest, at €3,995pps, is their ‘Zen Tour’ which takes in the two quarter-finals Ireland could potentially be involved in. Their most expensive is the ‘Sumo Tour’, which consists of the opening ceremony and opening game, Japan v Russia; New Zealand v South Africa; Ireland’s four group games; and two quarter-finals, at €12,995pps.
This incorporates flights there and back, takes in 32 nights’ accommodation in Japan, transfers throughout including bullet trains and an internal flight and sightseeing, such as Mount Fuji.
Their second most popular package so far has been solely for the quarter-finals and semi-finals, which gives an indication as to the heightened optimism about this Irish team.
Some of the most optimistic and well-off supporters have already taken up the option of what O’Reilly calls their ‘semi-final bolt on’ and ‘finals bolt on’, which cost €3,750pps and €3,950pps.
The bolt on options can be taken up after the quarter-finals, but will then be price dependant. In other words, to take in the entire World Cup with Rugby Travel Ireland would cost €20,695 per person sharing, give or take. Departing Ireland on September 18th, and returning on November 5th, taking in 12 games and 46 nights, some have already taken up this option.
Killester Travel’s most popular packages are the Banzai, which takes in the Ireland games against Scotland and Japan, and nine nights, and sightseeing in Mount Fuji, Kyoto and Tokyo, with estimated prices of €4,750 for three star and €5,500 for four star hotels.
Their Sumo tour, taking in the final pool game against Samoa and both of the Tokyo quarter-finals, over 10 nights, is estimated at €5,250 for three star to €5,750 for four star.
Their ‘Kendo’ tour is a four-game package, taking in both quarter-finals in Tokyo, both semi-finals in Yokohama and ranges from €5,950 for three star to €6,450 for four star.
“The interest is fantastic, it really is,” says Killester Travel’s Baird. “We have three times the amount of bookings for the final compared to a similar trip like New Zealand. Certainly people’s expectations are up, but we are advising people to book for semi-finals and final before we go, because it’s going to be very costly to change flights and add hotels.”
They also have a ‘freedom package’, which includes return flights, a rail pass and two nights around the matches, while the aforementioned Sumo package also takes in the IRFU Charitable Trust Walk and Cycle.
“The walkers will be on our tour, whereas the cyclists will have a more adventurous tour, going off to weird and wonderful places,” says Baird.
Club Travel are offering a choice of six different packages, taking in either two, three or four Irish matches, be it the opening two pool games against Scotland and Japan, the middle pool games, or pool finale while working in the one or more of potential knockout matches.
These are full packages, and include flights, tickets for Irish matches, accommodation, escorted tours and internal travel.
“These are fully escorted, mostly 10-day or two-week tours in which they get to see and experience a lot of Japan as well as enjoying the World Cup experience,” according to Robbie Sinnott.
“Your average two-week package, with everything included, is working out at €5,000-6,000. That’s an average cost. There’s very few people who are going out for a month. We can tailor make those ones but they are expensive.”
If unsure about going for it, there is a school of thought that if prospective travelling supporters hold off and wait, then a la Lions tours, some flights, hotels and packages may well be offloaded at reduced prices closer to the World Cup itself.
IRELAND’S POOL A MATCHES
Sunday September 22nd 2019
Ireland v Scotland, International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama. Kick-off 4.45pm local time/8.45am Irish time.
Saturday September 28th 2019
Japan v Ireland, Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Fukuroi. Kick-off 4.15pm local time/8.15am Irish time.
Thursday October 3rd 2019
Ireland v Russia, Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe. Kick-off 7.15pm local time/11.15am Irish time.
Saturday October 12th 2019
Ireland v Samoa, Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka. Kick-off 7.45pm local time/11.45am Irish time.
Knock-out stages (if pool A winners)
Sunday October 20th 2019
Winner of Pool A v Runners-up of Pool B, Tokyo Stadium. Kick-off 7.15pm local time/11.15am Irish time.
Sunday October 27th 2019
Winner of quarter-final 3 v Winner of quarter-final 4, International Stadium, Yokohama. Kick-off 6pm local time/ 9am Irish.
Knock-out stages if Pool A Runners-up
Saturday October 19th 2019
Winner of Pool B v Runners-up of Pool A, Tokyo Stadium. Tokyo. Kick-off 7.15pm local time/11.15m Irish time.
Saturday October 26th 2019
Winner of quarter-final 1 v winner of quarter-final 2, International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama. Kick-off 5pm local time/9am Irish.
World Cup Final
Saturday November 2nd 2019
International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama. Kick-off 6pm local time/9am Irish time.
In total there will be 1.8 million tickets for Rugby World Cup 2019, but World Rugby are not sharing exact numbers at this stage. “We have sold 70 per cent of the available tickets in the priority sales phases, which have a quota to ensure significant opportunities are available to purchase tickets across all matches at the general public sales phase that begins on September 19th,” said a spokesperson.
An estimated 540,000 tickets are still available for all 48 tournament matches across all price categories.
General sales will begin on at 10am (Japanese time/2am Irish time) on Wednesday, September 19th, until Monday, November 12th, through a public application process, by registering via www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets. Fans who apply for tickets to oversubscribed matches will be entered into a ballot system.
A traffic-light indicator on the Rugby World Cup 2019 ticketing site shows the level of ticket demand across every match. By choosing matches that are green or amber, fans have a far greater chance of success. Matches involving Japan, New Zealand, England and Ireland are proving particularly popular, as well as the knock-out matches.
Fans are urged to buy exclusively from official channels to avoid being let down. For more details visit www.rugbyworldcup.com/buy-official
Real-time, ‘first-come-first-served’ individual tickets sales will begin in January 2019. Tickets are still available for all 48 tournament matches across all price categories and full ticket price details are available at: https://tickets.rugbyworldcup.com/
TICKET PRICES FOR IRELAND’S MATCHES
Ireland v Scotland
Category A: €238
Category B: €175
Category C: €111 (child: €40)
Category D: €56 (child: €20)
Japan v Ireland
Category A: €318
Category B: €238
Category C: €159 (child: €40)
Category D: €79 (child: €20)
Ireland v Russia
Category A: €119
Category B: €79
Category C: €48 (child: €16)
Category D: €24 (child: €8)
Ireland v Samoa
Category A: €159
Category B: €119
Category C: €79 (child: €40)
Category D: €40 (child: €20)
Category A: €318
Category B: €238
Category C: €159
Category D: €79
Category A: €556
Category B: €397
Category C: €198
Category D: €119
Category A: €794
Category B: €556
Category C: €357
Category D: €198
IRELAND’S VENUES IN JAPAN
International Stadium Yokohama
Also known as the Nissan Stadium, the 72,327 all-seater stadium is in Yokohama, which the second largest city in Japan (population 3.7 million) and is about 37km south of Tokyo by coach or a variety of trains. It hosted three first-round games during the 2002 World Cup, and the final between Germany and Brazil, and will host pool matches, the semi-finals and the final of the Rugby World Cup after Japan announced that the proposed new National Stadium wouldn’t be completed in time.
Used primarily for football, and athletics, the stadium is in Fukuroi City, Shizuoka. From Tokyo, it can be reached by train (almost two hours, €60 to €90), by bus (five hours plus, roughly €35), or driving (two and a half hours). The stadium’s capacity is 50,889.
The Kobe City Misaki Park Stadium
Kobe is the sixth-largest city in Japan, located on the southern side of the main island of Honshu, with a population around 1.5 million. It is primarily a football stadium, with a capacity of 30,132, which has a retractable roof and is the home ground of J1 League club Vissel Kobe and the rugby union Top League team Kobelco Steelers. It hosted three games in the 2002 football World Cup and has also hosted rugby union internationals.
Fukuota Stadium, Fukuota
Also known as Level5 Stadium, the 22,563 capacity stadium is the home ground of Avispa Fukuoka football club, and has hosted rugby union matches, including some Tests and games in the 2009 IRB Junior World Championship. Fukuoka can be reached from Tokyo by high-speed train in two hours 45 minutes (€95 to €140), by night bus, car (five and a half hours) or plane. The stadium is 15–20 minutes walk or a short bus ride from Fukuoka Airport.
Built in the Chofu area formerly used by United States forces in Japan, in March 2001, the all-seater 49,970 capacity Tokyo Stadium is a multi-purpose venue and home of J1 League football club FC Tokyo and J2 League football club Tokyo Verdy. It is also used for concerts and was a shelter for survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and is one of the planned football venues for the 2020 summer Olympics. It will host the opening ceremony as well as opening match, Japan v Russia, and should Ireland reach the quarter-finals we will play at the stadium.