As the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicked off on Friday, Sept. 20, students from around the Pacific said the sport connects them and makes them feel proud to be where they are from.
Talemonu Tupou, a sophomore from Tonga majoring in accounting, said, “People are gathering together at school to watch games, and it builds unity and pride among the nations because they are competing and representing us on a world stage. This competition means a lot to many people and there are many rugby fans here at BYU–Hawaii coming together because of it.”
The Rugby World Cup, taking place every 4 years, is currently being held in Japan. It began on Friday, Sept. 20 and will run through to Saturday, Nov. 2. Twenty countries are being represented in the event, coming from areas such as the Pacific, Europe, Africa, North and South America and Asia.
Tupou added, “A lot of people are having conversations about the games and that is bringing people together. After the games are over, people are talking about it. It’s an easy way to start a conversation with people.
“I’ve ran into a few Fijians that I don’t really know, but I was able to talk with them about the games and get to know them because of the Rugby World Cup.”
Growing up with a love for the sport, Jordan Williams, a senior double majoring in graphic design and business management from New Zealand, said, “My dad played for some of the provincial [state] teams and has always been passionate about rugby.
“I definitely got that from him and we would always come home on Saturdays and put the rugby on. I remember the World Cup being a big thing in our home and getting up early or staying up late to watch the All Blacks play.”
Williams said he was planning to go over to Japan to watch a game until he learned of the prices for game tickets. “I was planning on going to Japan for a weekend to watch a game or two because there are cheap flights, but the tickets to the game were more expensive than the price of the flight. I still might go for a weekend to be there when the final is played.”
Finding rugby important to her country, Noellette Cookson, a sophomore majoring in psychology from New Zealand, said, “It’s our pride and joy. Watching the All Blacks play is exciting, especially when I see them perform the haka. It brings a lot of power to the game.
“Watching the World Cup makes me feel privileged to be from the Pacific. It’s such a strong sport in the Pacific that when you come to a place like Hawaii or go overseas, it makes you have a lot of pride for your little country seeing them on the world stage. The Rugby World Cup gives us a lot of pride and the game is definitely unifying students here.”
Cookson said being in Hawaii has made it harder to watch games, due to time differences and lack of coverage. “Back home I had easy access to watch the Rugby World Cup because it’s on everywhere. But here, it’s a little harder and I’ve had to find my own way to watch it. I’ve also found myself staying up late to watch the games.”
The Hawaii Journey at the Polynesian Cultural Center, a 600-seat IMAX movie theater, is playing several games live for students and the community to watch.
Tupou said, “I watch as many games as I can, sometimes with my friends, staying up late at night sometimes to tune in and see. Everyone's gathering together and taking time aside to support their country by watching the games.”
Regarding his opinion of the future of rugby, Tupou remarked, “The sport is growing, a lot of countries outside of the typical strong rugby countries such as Uruguay, Japan and Russia are developing and becoming a lot better. I hope that rugby continues to progress throughout the world. The Rugby World Cup definitely gives these countries an opportunity to grow while also helping the sport to grow internationally too.”