AFP
Wire Service
3 minute read
12 May 2022
5:19 pm

Rugby opens new frontier by picking US as World Cup hosts

AFP

By taking the event to the United States, rugby chiefs hope to make a dent in a lucrative market dominated by home-grown sports.

Members of the US team during the national anthems ahead of a group match at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Picture: Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup will be staged in the United States for the first time in 2031 after the game’s governing body named the host nations for five men’s and women’s tournaments.

Australia will hold the men’s World Cup in 2027 with the women’s tournaments going to England (2025), Australia (2029) and the United States (2033).

By taking the showpiece to North America, officials hope to grow the sport in a non-traditional rugby nation.

“Today, we have approved three exceptional Rugby World Cup host nations — England, Australia and USA — providing unprecedented certainty and an unparallelled opportunity to accelerate the growth and impact of rugby globally,” said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

“It is great for rugby, for fans and for the host nations.” 

USA Rugby chief executive Ross Young said: “We look forward to partnering with World Rugby in the years ahead to ensure that our preparations for these tournaments and the events themselves are a paradigm-shifting catalyst for the growth of our sport, not only here in the United States but around the world.”

World Rugby did not spring any surprises with their announcements on Thursday.

Officials were determined to avoid a repeat of the situation when South Africa was chosen as the preferred venue for the 2023 World Cup by an independent assessment panel only to lose out in a subsequent vote to France.

US market

By taking the event to the United States, rugby chiefs hope to make a dent in a lucrative market dominated by home-grown sports such as American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey.

The hope is that by 2031 the Eagles — as the US men’s team are known — might be competitive enough to match the achievement of 2019 hosts Japan, another emerging rugby union nation.

Japan reached the last eight of their home World Cup three years ago in a tournament won by South Africa.

The Eagles, however, have yet to qualify for next year’s World Cup in France, with the team facing Chile in a two-legged qualifier in July.

In order to help boost the competitiveness of teams such as the United States, officials are trying to restructure the existing July and November international windows to ensure they have more meaningful games between World Cups — a thorny issue since the sport turned professional in 1995.

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Australia last staged the World Cup in 2003 when the Wallabies were beaten in the final by England.

Eddie Jones, the then Australia coach, is now in charge of England.

“We’re beyond thrilled to be welcoming not one, but two Rugby World Cups to our shores,” said Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan.

“It’s a game-changer for rugby in this country, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise and secure the future of the sport here and see the game we all love grow and thrive for years to come.”

The England women’s team, on a run of 23 successive victories, are huge favourites to win this year’s coronavirus-delayed World Cup in New Zealand, the home of the reigning champions.

Sue Day, the chief operating officer of England’s Rugby Football Union, and herself a former England captain, said: “We are thrilled to be hosting the 2025 women’s World Cup — it’s going to be incredible.

“As we have seen from other home World Cups in cricket, hockey and netball, a World Cup will further advance all women’s sport.”