Race to RWC 2019 – An Epic Delivery

Key Takeaways

  • Ron Rutland and James Owens delivered the official opening match whistle on time to RWC referee Nigel Owens at Tokyo Stadium
  • DHL, the tournament’s Official Logistics Partner, has supported both cyclists on their 230-day, 20,000+ kilometer #EpicJourney from London to Japan
  • The intrepid cyclists raised over €75,000 for ChildFund Pass It Back to support children and young people in disadvantaged communities in Asia

Ron and James rolled into Tokyo Stadium yesterday, completing their remarkable 8-month quest to deliver the official opening match whistle from London to Tokyo by bike and raise money and awareness for ChildFund Pass It Back.

Epic may actually be an understatement. 20,000+ kilometers, 230 days, 27 countries. A cycling expedition across Europe and Asia to make an important delivery and leave a lasting impact. To make a difference in the lives of many children and young people in disadvantaged communities in Asia. 

The day before the very first Rugby World Cup in Asia, Ron Rutland and James Owens rolled into Tokyo Stadium to hand over a precious package: the official opening match whistle of Rugby World Cup 2019™. Nearly eight months after receiving the whistle from Alan Gilpin, Head of Rugby World Cup, at Twickenham Stadium in London, Ron and James placed the small yet highly symbolic shipment in the hands of Nigel Owens, the RWC referee who will officiate the opening match between Japan and Russia today.

“You’ve got a love it when a plan comes together.”

Ron Rutland

A Surreal Experience

“Handing over the whistle to Nigel this afternoon was just the most surreal experience,” said Ron. “Somewhat bittersweet because James and I have been through so much in the last 230 days.”

This special delivery was the culmination of a year-and-a-half project cooked up by Ron – a man who is no stranger to adventure. This is not the first time that he has embarked on an ambitious journey. Ron cycled alone for over two years from his home country of South Africa through every country in Africa and parts of Europe on his way to England for Rugby World Cup 2015TM.

“You’ve got a love it when a plan comes together,” he added. 

The trip was much more than simply a wild adventure. It was a chance to see even more of the world, meet and experience different people and cultures, and spread the word about the game they love.

“We’ve seen so much of the world,” said Ron. “And we’ve been on the receiving end of so much good humanity and seen such a good side of people in so many countries.”

“It’s just wild to be here in Tokyo.”

James Owens

An Epic Moment

Ron and James are obviously moved by their experience and the moment. It’s a lot to process.

“The emotions are a bit mixed,” said James. “I don’t know what to make of it all. Definitely bittersweet; lots of excitement but at the same time trying to process it all. It’s just wild to be here in Tokyo.”

“Sad that it’s over,” added Ron. “But my goodness we’ve had the time of our lives!”

“But my goodness we’ve had the time of our lives!”


So what’s next?

After cycling halfway around the world and raising over €75,000 for ChildFund Pass It Back, the boys have earned a well-deserved break from the bike. And they’ll get it, remaining in Japan for the duration of the tournament to take in some rugby and continue to advocate for their cause.

“Can’t wait to watch some rugby, put our feet up, relax and stay away from the bicycle for a while,” said James. “I’m absolutely buzzing to be here. I’ve wanted to come to Japan since I was little and with it being the first Rugby World Cup in Asia, it’s going to be a hell of a six weeks.”

James reflected for a moment and then added. “People always want to hear about the mental challenges – the weather the big mountains. But for me it’s the mental side. Sort of the war of attrition. The old bicycle. 230 days. Just getting up, day after day. And most importantly doing it with a smile on your face.”

Ron reminded us that they didn’t do it alone. They had a lot of people behind them every step of the way.

“Having the right partners on board, who were so invested in the trip,” he said. “Obviously DHL, supporting us logistically and in so many other ways, as well as World Rugby and ChildFund Pass it Back. But also the thousands of people that supported us on the route and all the friends and family who have ridden with us or sent messages from afar.”

The Race to Rugby World Cup 2019 is now over, as is the countdown to the opening match today. Now that the #EpicJourney has come to an end, let’s get fired up for some #RWCEpicMoments over the next six weeks!

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