Hopeful supporters spend thousands of pounds on last-minute flights to Japan to watch World Cup final

England celebrate winning the World Cup Rugby Union back in 2003.
England celebrate winning the World Cup Rugby Union back in 2003.
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There is an ancient Japanese proverb which says “if you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cubs”.

That same “nothing ventured, nothing gained” philosophy is now being adopted by England rugby’s most dedicated fans who are spending thousands of pounds on last minute flights in the hope of seeing Eddie Jones’s side raise the World Cup trophy.

Tickets for the final against South Africa at the Yokohama International Stadium had sold out even before England’s impressive 19-7 semi-final victory over favourites New Zealand.

However, even with some seats now costing in excess of £10,000 on resale sites, it has not stopped travel agencies being inundated with those determined to get to the Land of the Rising Sun in time for the kick-off on Saturday.

Last night there were still some limited flights leaving Manchester for Tokyo for about £1,000, but British Airways has announced it is looking at chartering additional flights to meet the demand from supporters desperate not to miss out on witnessing sporting history firsthand.

A spokesman said: “We have seen a 184 per cent surge in the number of people looking at flights to Tokyo on our website.

“As it stands, we only have a tiny number of seats left on our twice-daily flights to the Japanese capital this coming week, but we’re exploring a number of options to help fans get there.”

However, as Rob Lewis has realised, securing a seat on a plane might in fact be the easy bit.

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The 36 year old web designer from Sunbury-on-Thames admitted that alcohol and a small helping of peer pressure played a part in his impromptu decision to pay £650 for an Air France flight. However, so far he has no accommodation, no ticket to the final and is reliant on crutches following a recent knee operation.

He said: “At 11 o’clock on Saturday morning when I’m four or five pints down, the idea popped into my head to look at flights to Tokyo.

“With all my mates next to me saying, ‘you wouldn’t go to Japan’, I desperately wanted to prove them wrong so I then went ahead and booked them. I had a knee operation just over a week ago so I’m on crutches at the minute.

“I’m going to be hobbling around Tokyo trying to get a ticket on the day of the final, which is pretty dumb, but worth it for the adventure I guess.”

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While rugby is still a minority support in Japan, where sumo wrestling still rules, such has been the enthusiasm of the home fans those who do make it to the final are guaranteed a warm welcome.

Stuart Clague, who until recently worked in customer experience at Leeds Carnegie rugby club, had a taste of what is in store this weekend when he travelled with his father, Ian, to watch both semi-finals in Yokohama.

He said: “It has been unbelievable and the atmosphere within the stadium was incredible.

“We are about to head on to Auckland as we already have tickets to see the Great Britain Rugby League Lions take on New Zealand.

“We always knew there was a chance we might miss England in the World Cup final, but dad and I will be cheering them on from over there.”