• Race to Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, will see Ron Rutland and Adam Nunn cycle 16,500km across 14 countries in 210 days in one epic journey 
  • The pair aim to raise funds for ChildFund Rugby, the Principal Charity Partner of Rugby World Cup 2021 by encouraging fans to sponsor a kilometre
  • The adventures will depart from Tokyo on 14 March, delivering the referee’s whistle for the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2021 between South Africa and France in Auckland on 8 October
  • Rugby communities along the route encouraged to support along the way

The Race to Rugby World Cup is back with adventurers Ron Rutland and Adam Nunn undertaking an epic quest to cycle 16,500km from Tokyo to Auckland to deliver the whistle for the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, and raise funds for the event’s Principal Charity Partner ChildFund Rugby. 

The adventure, which is being supported by Rugby World Cup 2021 Worldwide Partner DHL and World Rugby, kicks off on 14 March at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo. The pair will travel through 14 nations across 210 days, arriving in New Zealand just ahead of the opening match at Eden Park between South Africa and France on 8 October. 

The pair are aiming to make this trip, the second Race to Rugby World Cup, the most interactive yet and are calling on fans to ‘sponsor a kilometre’ for US$10 with all proceeds going to ChildFund Rugby. Ron and Adam are also encouraging rugby communities along the way to get involved and reach out to them as they undertake their journey. Progress can be followed via the www.racetorugbyworldcup.com website and via @RaceToRWC on Twitter. 

Throughout their journey, Ron and Adam will participate in ChildFund Rugby partnerships, which provide opportunities for children and young people to learn new life skills so that they are better equipped to overcome challenges, inspire positive social change, and become active leaders in their communities. More than half of all ChildFund Rugby participants at all levels are female and the ChildFund Rugby environment is built to challenge negative gender stereotypes and to create positive male and female role models.

Ron and Adam are currently fine-tuning their final preparations ahead of the ‘Grand Depart’ in Tokyo on Monday, 14 March and it will be an extra special moment getting to the start line following COVID-19 related complications that recently impacted their planning.

The specially engraved whistle will be presented to Ron and Adam by Japan internationals Ai Hirayama and Noriko Taniguchi, accompanied by Ren-G at Ajinomoto Stadium. Some 16,500km and 210 days later, Ron and Adam will hand it to the referee for the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2021 at the iconic Eden Park.

Rutland said: “The 2019 Race to Rugby World Cup was the most rewarding year of my life, and Adam and I feel enormously privileged to be embarking on this next adventure together three years later. Given the pandemic, it has been a really challenging road getting to the start line this year, so it’s particularly special to be back in Tokyo, and now that we’re here, Adam and I could not be more excited to start our ride down to New Zealand for what is going to be a monumental Rugby World Cup. 

“We are enormously grateful to World Rugby, DHL and JRFU for all their amazing support, and for the honour of entrusting us with the match whistle for the opening game. We’re going to do everything we can over the next 210 days to repay those efforts by raising as much funds and awareness as we can for the incredible work that ChildFund Rugby do for girls and women throughout Asia and Oceania, and we look forward to engaging with them, and the wider rugby community all along our journey.” 

ChildFund Sport for Development Director Chris Mastaglio said: “ChildFund Rugby is grateful for Ron and Adam’s commitment to support our partnerships ahead of what is set to be an amazing celebration of sport in New Zealand for Rugby World Cup 2021. Their incredible feat to cycle from Tokyo to Auckland for Rugby World Cup 2021 will support even more girls and women to play, learn, and lead through rugby, and to build critical skills that will support safe and peaceful communities for everyone.”

DHL Head of Global Sponsorship Elliott Santon said: “We are proud to partner once again with Ron and Adam for their inspiring journey. DHL has a longstanding association with rugby across the globe and are an official partner to both ChildFund Rugby and Rugby World Cup 2021. We are passionate about our partnership with ChildFund which leverages rugby as a platform to improve the lives of many thousands of children and wish Ron and Adam the very best and a safe journey ahead.”

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin added: “We are proud to be supporting Ron and Adam on their epic adventure. Having participated in the opening leg of the last Race to Rugby World Cup, I know what an incredible person Ron is. His passion for adventure is not simply about turning the pedals, he is also passionate about sport for good and played an enormous role in showcasing the leading, transformative work of ChildFund, who we are proud to be partnering with for Rugby World Cup 2021. The Race to Rugby World Cup is ready for its ‘Grand Depart’ in Tokyo and we look forward to participating along the way.”

Fittingly, the Japan Rugby Football Union is supporting the departure, almost three years on from welcoming Ron ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019.

President of Japan Rugby Football Union Shigetaka Mori said: “We commend Ron, Adam and ChildFund for undertaking this wonderful initiative to support young people around the world through the positive power of rugby. It’s a great honour that this epic adventure kicks off in Japan and it reminds us of the excitement and joy of our own Rugby World Cup. Ron and Adam will set off from Tokyo with the support and best wishes of Japan’s entire rugby family.”

Fans wishing to attend the 15s rugby event of the year can book their Opening Match Day Pass for Rugby World Cup 2021 here to avoid missing out on the chance to be part of Rugby World Cup history.

Editors notes

About ChildFund Rugby

ChildFund Rugby’s partnerships provide children and young people with opportunities to play, learn, and lead. 

Through integrated rugby and life skills learning, young people from vulnerable communities are equipped to overcome challenges, inspire positive social change, and take active leadership roles within their communities.

All partnerships contribute to building an equitable and inclusive future, where children are safe from violence — reflecting targets within the UN Sustainable Development Goals.