Roar-gby! Japan unveils lion mascots for Rugby World Cup

Ren, left and G, official mascots for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, were chosen from among 50 candidates. (Reuters)
Updated 26 January 2018

Roar-gby! Japan unveils lion mascots for Rugby World Cup

TOKYO: Blending its love of all things cute with its rich cultural heritage, Japan on Friday unveiled the mascots for the 2019 Rugby World Cup: a pair of pot-bellied lions.
With luxurious manes, short horns and faces that appear to be shaped like rugby balls, mascots “Ren” and “G” are inspired by “shishi,” the mythical lion-like figure that features in Japan’s new year celebrations and kabuki theater.
“Ren,” with a white mane is the parent of child “G,” whose mane is red, and the pair bounced up and down, trading high-fives and passing a rugby ball back-and-forth at a press conference in Tokyo.
The pair, chosen from among 50 candidates, “represent the culture of host Japan” and “convey the message that it would be the first World Cup in Japan and in Asia,” said Shogo Miyata, an official from the 2019 organizing committee.
They are the first mascots for a Rugby World Cup since 1999, and will be competing for attention with a plethora of cutesy mascots, which in Japan promote everything from local regions to prisons.
“Mascots are symbolic in Japan,” said Rob Abernethy, executive director of the World Cup.
“The story behind our mascots will create connections, a bond between the Japanese people, rugby and its value,” he said.
Japan will host the Rugby World Cup just a year before the 2020 Olympics.
Three sets of potential Olympic mascots are currently vying for the votes of Japanese schoolchildren, with the result expected to be announced next month.


Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”