Rugby’s biggest tournament is finally heading to the United States.
Now comes the hard part for sports leadership: generating enough interest and stability to secure the sport’s place in the crowded US market.
The Rugby World Cup will be staged in the US for the first time since voting on Thursday as the host of the men’s event in 2031 and the women’s tournament two years later.
It marked rugby’s greatest effort to move into the wider American sporting consciousness and regards world rugby – the sport’s international governing body – as an area of untapped potential, both in a commercial and sporting sense.
Bill Beaumont, president of World Rugby, described America as “the golden nugget that everybody wants to hold”.
“What we will leave in America,” he said, “is an extremely durable, vibrant sport that will go from strength to strength.”
USA Rugby’s vision is a nationwide membership that will quadruple to 450,000 by 2031, a number of stadiums staging “coast-to-coast” matches – there are about 25 venue bids including the NFL and Major League Soccer arenas – and significant investments in domestic Major Leagues. Rugby is therefore a competitive team at the time of the US Eagles 2031.
A competitive, perhaps quarterfinal-biding team, would be crucially needed for the Eagles and the World Cup to gain traction in the Americas. The Rugby World Cup is held during September–October, when America is already in the NFL and Transfixed by college football, the Major League Baseball pennant race and playoffs, and the beginnings of the NBA and NHL.
USA Rugby already has some experience. The July 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens at the baseball home of the San Francisco Giants attracted over 100,000 people over three days, and US-decent TV ratings on NBC.
“(The World Cups are) an invitation to grow the fan base of our sport, to raise our level of awareness,” said Victoria Folayan, who played Sevens Rugby for the US and is USA Rugby’s athlete representative. “The doors are opening. Being able to take that step is just the beginning.”
To that end, World Rugby’s experience of taking its men’s showpiece tournament to Asia for the first time in 2019 – when Japan was the host and reached the quarter-finals – will be crucial in preparing the US for its debut. Not only the public, but also the national team.
While the US women’s team won the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991 and reached the finals in the next two events, the men’s national team never exited the pool stage in the eight tours of the World Cup – three victories in 25 matches – and originally The world’s top teams are out of play on an annual basis.
As was successfully done for Japan, World Rugby will pour coaching expertise into the Eagles and work to deliver more Test matches to improve them. Attempts are on to shake up the men’s international calendar so that emerging teams like the United States have more opportunities.
Hosting the two World Cups would cost approximately $500 million, and profits and losses would be shared between World Rugby and USA Rugby, which recently filed for bankruptcy as of 2020.
The bid received support from the White House, with US President Joe Biden sending a letter to World Rugby last month offering government guarantees and his support for “the development of rugby in the United States”.
The Men’s Rugby World Cup is considered the third largest sporting event in the world after the Football World Cup and the Summer Olympics.
The United States is hosting all three of them over a five-year period from 2026, starting with that year’s men’s soccer World Cup – with Mexico and Canada as co-hosts – and then the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. .
For the first time, World Rugby used a streamlined bidding process to enable it to announce the hosts of all World Cups until 2025–33 for both men and women.
Sydney Harbor Bridge lit up in green and gold after two-time champions Australia were awarded the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s tournament in 2029. The men’s World Cup is returning to Australia for the first time since 2003.
It is being seen as an opportunity to rejuvenate rugby in the country as the World Cup follows the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2025, bringing much-needed revenue to its governing body which is battling the pandemic. was badly affected.
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marino described it as “the beginning of a new era for Australian rugby”.
“Australia will become the center of the rugby world over the next decade,” he said, “and that’s incredibly exciting.”
The 2027 tournament will mark the 40th anniversary of Australia and New Zealand hosting the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.
England was announced as the host of the Women’s World Cup in 2025.
More Associated Press Rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80