The excitement ahead of the Rugby World Cup is building — Japan is hosting this year's tournament and pubs are aiming to pull in the punters, as 20 teams compete to take home that coveted trophy.

The excitement ahead of the Rugby World Cup is building — Japan is hosting this year's tournament and pubs are aiming to pull in the punters, as 20 teams compete to take home that coveted trophy.

New Zealand will be bidding for a third successive victory when it all starts on September 20.

With Japan eight hours ahead of the UK, rugby fans over here face some early starts if they are to catch all of the action — and operators will need to adapt their offer to maximise the occasion and draw in viewers.

Among those pubs preparing for a busy six weeks is The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham. As a well-known rugby pub, it had people booking tables as early as June. Stuart Green is the manager. He says: "We took a view about what games we would show. It's virtually all of them bar a couple that are on at four o'clock in the morning."

The Cabbage Patch is used to early starts, having opened its doors to show matches when the British & Irish Lions toured New Zealand in 2017. "We have a tried and tested practice," Stuart says. "We will be serving a breakfast and brunch menu to run around those games. We will aim to serve people as early as possible. We will have coffee available for people to refill as quickly as possible."

The pub will also be offering a special Japanese-themed menu, with dishes including a katsu curry burger, and it is also providing a working environment inside the pub so office staff from local businesses don't have to miss the games. "We have been on countdown since the season ended," Stuart adds. "The new season is being delayed for the World Cup, so to get our rugby fix this is what we are waiting for."

 

Pic: Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

 

Play the advantage

As the tournament's Worldwide Partner, Heineken has compiled this handy guide for licensees looking to drive trade with the Rugby World Cup.

Get your screens up
Sports fans have come to expect a high-quality experience when it comes to watching sport in the pub, so make sure all screens and audiovisual equipment are set up well in advance of the big matches.

Be organised
Once you have the fans in, the three big challenges are: bar queues, lack of seating and sound and visual requirements. Think about more seating, table service, additional TVs and increased staffing at key times.
Don't forget the alcohol-free drinks
Midday kick-offs mean punters are more likely to be looking to drink something other than a classic pint and a decent range of alcohol-free drinks will appeal.

Plan for pre- and post-match
Make sure you have strong offers on food and drink both before and after the matches. As many of the matches fall over lunchtime, food is a great way to entice fans in. Multi-buy promotions, cross-category deals and offers focused on large groups and round buying will help maximise sales.

Remember the lager lovers
Lager is key to sales uplifts during sporting events and accounts for 44 per cent of all sales among sports fans.

 

 

A Taste of Japan

Japan's Rugby World Cup offers a chance to create some interest with themed food and drinks. Here are some ideas.

Beer
Several Japanese lager brands are available in the UK, including Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo.

Gin
Japanese whiskies are considered some of the best in the world but the country also has a growing craft spirits scene and makes several excellent gins. Roku and Ki No Bi are both available over here

Katsu curry
Already popular over here, katsu curry is breaded, fried chicken coated in Japanese-style curry sauce on a bed of rice.

Gyoza
"In Japan, gyoza [pictured] are traditionally served as bar snacks and enjoyed alongside beer while watching sporting events," says Jessica Davies, communications manager at Ajinomoto Foods Europe. "This is a format that could easily transfer to British pubs."

Karaage (fried chicken)
A sort of Japanese gastro version of KFC, available with a variety of secret ingredients in the coating. A great match for beer.

 

Key fixtures

Japan v Russia
September 20 • 11.45am

Ireland v Scotland
September 22 • 8.45am

England v Tonga
September 22 • 11.15am

Wales v Georgia
September 23 • 11.15am

England v USA
September 26 • 11.45am

Scotland v Samoa
September 30 • 11.15am

England v Argentina
October 5 • 9am

Scotland v Russia
October 9 • 8.15am

Wales v Fiji
October 9 • 10.45am

England v France
October 12 • 9.15am

Wales v Uruguay
October 13 • 9.15am

Japan v Scotland
October 13 • 11.45am

FINAL
NOVEMBER 2 • 9am

all games on ITV