Cobham RFC's legacy from hosting the Namibian and Italian National Teams has started with a visit from a 28-strong delegation from Japanese Prefecture of Oita who will be hosting teams during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Cobham RFC was contacted directly by representatives from the Japan Local Government Centre in Whitehall who had read reports on social media of the warm welcome that we provided to Namibia and Italy.
They explained that they would be grateful if we could meet the delegation from Oita Prefecture, a region based in Southern Japan, who were undertaking research as to how Cobham had been able to host two international teams, as well as understanding the lessons that could be taken back to assist their Government in planning for RWC 2019.
The delegation included representatives of the Government, the Local Council, Junior Chamber, Regional Rugby Football Union, a local broadcasting station and the CEO's of two hotel chains.
Cobham RWC 2015 Chairman Tony Balkwill gave a warm welcome to the delegation and provided them with details of Cobham RFC's 'RWC Journey' which had started in 2012. This was translated into Japanese by their accompanying interpreter.
Having provided them with a short video that encapsulated the magic of the experience, there was a panel question and answer session where Tony Balkwill, President Lionel Frewin, ACS Co-ordinator Suzanne Whealing and Paul Hickson PR and Communications, explained more of the background, build up and the challenges that were overcome.
The presentation along with the question and answer session were filmed and many photographs were taken and we understand that a video of Cobham RFC will be shown on local Japanese TV following their return.
The delegation were taken over to ACS Cobham International School and Suzanne Whealing introduced them to Head of Rugby Neil McCulloch who surprised our guests by welcoming them in perfect Japanese, having played rugby in Japan for ten years. Neil took them around the facilities showing them the running track, swimming pool, gym and basketball courts.
The delegation was then transported to The Woodlands Park Hotel to see the function rooms and bedrooms that were used by the teams. This was particularly helpful for the representatives of the hotel companies.
On returning to Cobham RFC via Cobham High Street, so they could see the flags that had been draped in welcome for Namibia and Italy together with our host nation, there was a traditional exchange of gifts between President Lionel Frewin and Mr.Masaharu Kotegawa, advisor for Oita Rugby Football Union and member of Oita Prefectural Assembly.
Lionel Frewin expressed his thanks for the interest that had been shown by their visit and Mr.Masaharu Kotegawa responded with his very kind thanks expressed to Cobham RFC for the assistance that had been provided and confirmation that we had wonderful facilities that surpassed many rugby clubs in Japan.
They have asked to return with some more representatives and we have offered our full support and co-operation. In the meantime, given the success of their national team in the competition, we have asked that any enquiries from Japanese nationals studying or working in England who want to play rugby, be forwarded to us.