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Rugby World Cup final to be held in birthplace of Japanese rugby

The city of Yokohama, just south of Tokyo, was never meant to be the host of the Rugby World Cup final, but on reflection, its pick as a back-up for the tournament’s conclusion seems predestined.

Yokohama, a baseball-loving city, was plan B for World Cup organisers, but this second option could not have been a better pick due to its long rugby history.

For many rugby fans, the first Asian Rugby World Cup may be their first taste of Asian rugby, but the sport has been in Japan for over a century.

“The first evidence of an early form of rugby is 1863,” historian Mike Galbraith tells 1 NEWS Now.

The 72-year-old historian, rugby lover and player from the UK has been passionate about researching the history of rugby in his adopted home of Japan.

Through his research into the genesis of rugby in Japan, Mr Galbraith found evidence that an early form of rugby, or football as it was called at the time, was played in the early 1860s.

That's long before England’s Rugby Football Union was founded in 1871.

The belief prior to Mr Galbraith’s discovery was that two British men from Cambridge University, Edward Bramwell Clarke and Ginnosuke Tanaka introduced the sport to Japan in 1899.

However, Mr Galbraith has found earlier evidence of a form of rugby being played in Yokohama with accounts of British military based there playing the sport during winter.

“In 1866 they decided to start a club and founded what is Asia’s first rugby club,” he says.

That club was the Yokohama Football Club.

Mr Galbraith says after that accounts of games were recorded as other clubs began to form around the region and in 1879 the first rugby game was recorded.

In 1884 there was a merger of the various clubs and the Yokohama Cricket and Athletics Club was formed.

This club would then become the Yokohama Country and Athletics Club in 1912, which still exists today.

After ups and downs in terms of playing numbers and matches being played, they managed to gather strength and play the likes of Canada and New Zealand in competitive fixtures. 

Fast forward to the present day, Japan’s rugby team is now ranked sixth in the world, on the back of their first quarter-final appearance. 

Now the place that saw the first ball thrown will play host to the final at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium, when South Africa and England face off. 

Images of Yokohama Country and Athletics Club Source: 1 NEWS