Rugby World Cup trophy to visit India

India is one of 18 nations that will host rugby's most coveted prize, the Rugby World Cup trophy, also known as the Webb Ellis Cup, during its world wide tour ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2019.

With just over one year to go until the Rugby World Cup 2019 takes place in Japan -- the first time the tournament will be hosted in Asia -- the Webb Ellis Cup will visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Bhubaneswar as part of an international celebration of rugby ahead of next year's tournament.

The Webb Ellis Cup will be welcomed to India by Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in the capital next week.

India is the eighth leg of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour and follows a recent visit to the Philippines.

Since the tour was launched in 2017, the trophy has visited both established and emerging rugby nations including England, Uruguay, Spain, Fiji, Hong Kong and China. The Rugby World Cup trophy will visit India for the first time and will also visit countries including Nepal, Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil and Chile in the lead up to the tournament.

"We are extremely proud and honoured that India has been chosen as one of the 18 nations that will host the coveted Rugby World Cup as part of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Trophy Tour. It is encouraging that World Rugby has recognised and acknowledged Rugby India's efforts to grow and develop this beautiful game across India," Indian Rugby Football Union Secretary General Mahesh Mathai said in a statement.

Mathai has called upon the rugby fraternity across India to join hands and welcome the trophy.

"Japan 2019 is the first time that the tournament will be played on Asian soil and we are glad to be a part of this rugby celebration in the lead up to this exciting tournament," he said.

Actor Rahul Bose, a former national level rugby player, is excited and has urged Bollywood's rugby fans John Abraham, Ranveer Singh, Abhishek Bachchan and Atul Kasbekar to tweet support for the Cup's India journey.

While Kasbekar called it a "nice start" to make the sport popular in India, Abhishek said it's a sport "waiting to explode" in the country.

Hosted once every four years, the Rugby World Cup is the game's centrepiece event and the third largest sports event in the world after the summer Olympics and the Football World Cup.

Rugby World Cup 2019 will take place in Japan from September 20, 2019 to November 2, 2019 and will see the best 20 teams in the world compete for rugby's greatest prize.

Ahead of the tournament, a two-year Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour is underway visiting 18 countries aiming to inspire and engage new and existing rugby players and fans. The Trophy Tour supports World Rugby's Impact Beyond Programme which aims to use World Rugby tournaments as a catalyst for the growth of the game.

Project Asia 1 Million, part of Impact Beyond, which aims to attract one million new rugby participants by 2020, has already reached over 500,000 people across Asia.    - IANS