Japan’s ‘Mr Rugby’ visits Queenstown ahead of World Cup

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Next year’s Rugby World Cup is already bringing high-profile visitors to Queenstown. 

Japan’s “Mr Rugby” spent two days in the resort this week after watching the Bledisloe Cup Test in Christchurch last Saturday. 

Yoshiro Mori has been president of the Japan Rugby Football Union for the past five years and served as Japan’s Prime Minister for 12 months a decade ago. 

While in the resort he sampled Central Otago produce and wines, visited the Kiwi Birdlife Park and flew to Milford Sound with Destination Queenstown boss Tony Everitt, who’s a former Tourism New Zealand regional manager for Japan. 

Mori said the highlight of his and his wife Chieko’s trip – coordinated by DQ and the Visits and Ceremonial Office – was “the purity and majesty of the landscape”. 

He hopes to make his second visit to Queenstown after next year’s World Cup, where Japan is in New Zealand’s pool. 

Former Wallaby great Phil Kearns, who’s now on Fox Sports commentator, has also been in town, but for non-rugby reasons. 

A senior executive with Tri-Nations rugby sponsor Investec Bank, he was among nine superannuation fund investors and analysts visiting New Zealand to look at business opportunities. 

He says the group altogether has $A400 billion in funds. 

None of the other businessmen had been to Queenstown, but all were keen to return, Kearns adds. 

While here, they visited Arrowtown jewellery magnate Michael Hill’s golf course The Hills and dined at Wai Waterfront Restaurant before flying to Christchurch for the Bledisloe Cup Test. 

Their visit was coordinated by Rugby World Cup business engagement manager Alex Matheson. They were also accompanied by former All Black Andy Haden, who recently lost his World Cup ambassadorial role after making some controversial comments on TV.