Culture

Two Rugby Fans Are Cycling from London to Tokyo for the 2019 World Cup

They're cycling 20,093 km to deliver the whistle for the first game in Tokyo on September 20.

By 2 min read

Two men are racing against the clock to cycle the 20,093 km (12,000 mi) through 26 countries that separate Twickenham Stadium and Tokyo Stadium in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Who are these guys? One is James Owens, a Briton born and raised in Hong Kong with experience playing and coaching rugby. He joined the children’s charity ChildFund in 2015 to develop their Pass It Back project, which teaches life skills and rugby to disadvantaged children across Asia.

The other is South African Ron Rutland, who famously cycled solo for a two-year, 42,000 km ride across Africa and Europe. He arrived in England in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup Springboks vs. Japan game, which the Springboks famously lost.

When asked what he thinks about his team’s chances in the upcoming 2019 World Cup in an interview with CNN, he said, “My heart tells me we can go all the way and I genuinely believe we could.”

This time, the stakes have been raised from Rutland’s previous journey, as he and Owens have been tasked with delivering the whistle that will be used to start the first World Cup game between Japan and Russia at Tokyo Stadium which kicks off at 7.45 p.m. on Sept. 20.

On Feb. 2, the two departed from Twickenham Stadium — where the 2015 Rugby World Cup final was held — and so far have cycled 5,075 km through sub-zero temperatures in Europe. Their path will take them to iconic routes including the Himalayas (twice) and the Karakoram Highway through China to Pakistan.

A map on their website keeps track of Rutland and Owens’ progress along with a ghost rider who represents where they need to be to make it on time to deliver the whistle.

Rutland and Owen’s progress (right) vs. the ghost rider (left) via Race to RWC.

“He doesn’t sleep so he has the advantage,” Rutland explained. “We wake up and he’s already half a day ahead of us.”

“That’s the race element, trying to race him. World Rugby very kindly presented us with the match whistle for the opening game so we’re carrying that. The World Cup won’t wait for us.”

Along with their goal to arrive at Tokyo Stadium in time for the first Rugby World Cup game, they are also raising money for ChildFund’s Pass It Back project. So far, they have raised over €2,159 ($2,424) for the charity.

For photos and updates about James and Ron’s journey, as well as for information on how to donate, check out their official website here.

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