The only Rugby World Cup 2019 venue to be purpose built for the tournament will open on Aug. 19 with a game between hosts Kamaishi Seawaves and Japan Rugby Top League side Yamaha Jubilo, organizers said Tuesday.
The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate Prefecture has been built on land formerly occupied by an elementary school and a junior high school, both of which were destroyed by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
(Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium under construction in Jan. 2018)
The game is a rematch of the first game the Seawaves played following the disaster, which saw many of the team's players -- including former All Black Pita Alatini and Wallaby Scott Fardy -- remain in the town to help with rescue and recovery efforts.
"We are proud to play the opening match at this great stadium, completed with the support and vision of so many people," said Yoshihiko Sakuraba, general manager of Kamaishi Seawaves RFC and a Rugby World Cup 2019 official ambassador.
"It's an honor to welcome our friends from Yamaha Jubilo who were the first rugby team to come to Kamaishi to support us during the reconstruction effort following the earthquake and tsunami. This stadium remembers the past, honors the present and looks forward to the future. The game on Aug. 19 will be a great step forward in the ongoing recovery of Kamaishi and the lead-up to our city hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019."
Upon completion, the stadium will have a permanent capacity for 6,000 spectators, with 10,000 additional temporary seats to be added for Rugby World Cup 2019, when it will host two fixtures -- Fiji vs Uruguay on Sept. 25, 2019 and the top African qualifier against the winner of the four-team repechage on Oct. 13.
(Artist's impression of Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium)
"The opening of the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium will mark a very special moment on the journey to Rugby World Cup 2019," World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said in a press release.
"The stadium stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people of Kamaishi and will act as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come, providing an important legacy for the future of this region of Japan that has rugby at its heart."
The port town of Kamaishi has a long and successful rugby history, with the previous local team, Nippon Steel, winning seven consecutive national championships between 1978 and 1984.
The Seawaves, founded in 2001, play in the national second-division Top Challenge League and have ex-Japan international Wataru Ikeda and New Zealand and Japan sevens player Scott Pierce on their coaching staff.