Cyclists cross 20,000km to deliver World Cup whistle

Reuters, TOKYO

Fri, Sep 20, 2019 - Page 16

Intrepid cyclists Ron Rutland and James Owens yesterday delivered the whistle to be used in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup after traveling more than 20,000km in 231 days from London.

The pair, who began their trip at Twickenham Stadium in February, handed the whistle to Welsh referee Nigel Owens, who is to be taking charge of today’s clash between hosts Japan and Russia.

The journey, which spanned 27 countries, aimed to raise awareness and money for charity ChildFund, which is working in partnership with World Rugby, which aims to empower underprivileged children across Asia through the game.

They delivered the whistle safe and sound to Nigel Owens in Tokyo Stadium, which is to host the opening match.

“It is amazing to be here, this is incredibly surreal,” said James Owens, who is unrelated to the referee. “We have been on a hell of a journey since leaving London six months ago.”

“It has been more of just a journey with Ron and I. We have had this incredible support network all trip. Thank you to everyone who has bought into our journey and tracked this whistle. It has had a fair few adventures,” he said.

The duo are to stay in Japan for the next six weeks to enjoy the World Cup.

“These guys have made it a very tough act to follow actually,” tournament director Alan Gilpin said jokingly. “The next six weeks will have to go some way to matching the epic journey these guys have been on.”

Nigel Owens was also the referee for the final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.