Japan unveils lion-like mascots for 2019 World Cup

Meet Ren-G: The 2019 Rugby World Cup Mascot
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Story highlights

  • "Ren-G" unveiled as official mascots
  • Japan hosts Asia's first rugby World Cup in 2019

(CNN)For a sport renowned for bruising runs and thumping tackles, the mascots for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan are on the softer side.

Described as mythical, lion-like creatures that "bring happiness and ward off evil," "Ren" and "G" -- together known as "Ren-G" -- were unveiled Friday as the tournament's official mascots.
The winning design was chosen from around 50 entries and similar depictions are seen throughout Japanese culture.
    The pair, which have long, flowing manes, white fur and button noses, were filmed dancing and passing a rugby ball at the official unveiling.
    "Ren-G" are both genderless and, according to the Rugby World Cup website, their purpose is to "spread the spirit of rugby from Japan to Asia and to the rest of the world ... Sometimes they will jump into cyberspace to meet and interact with people around the world."
    Its the first time since 1999 that there's been an official mascot at a Rugby World Cup -- Dewi the dragon paraded the touchlines in Wales that year.
    The rise of rugby in Japan
    cnn world rugby japan rugby world cup 2019 spc_00000806

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    Japan's rugby dream

    The 2019 edition of the tournament, the first to be hosted in Asia, gets underway on September 20, a year before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics.
    While Japan is an emerging rugby nation, on the field it has rivaled some of the sport's traditional powerhouses.
    A dramatic 32-34 victory over South Africa during the 2015 World Cup in England has gone down as Japan's most historic result, and a late missed conversion in Paris last November meant the Brave Blossoms missed out on a first ever victory over France, settling instead for a draw.
    The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be staged in 12 venues with the final held at the International Stadium Yokohama on November 2.
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    The All Blacks will be hoping for an unprecedented third-straight crown after defeating Australia 34-17 in the 2015 final at London's Twickenham Stadium.