With recent reports indicating that France will host the next Rugby World Cup and Australia the firm favourite for 2027, it is looking likely that the US will host the tournament in 2031. However, the formal bidding process for 2027 and 2031 will not start until November 2020, and no formal announcements will be made until 2021.
Rugby is very much a developing sport in the US, but many believe there is massive potential for growth, so this timeframe has been warmly welcomed as it would adequately allow for the sport to build momentum over the next few years.
There is general agreement that any sooner, such as the 2027 tournament, could be problematic, mainly due to the joint hosting by USA, Canada and Mexico of the Football World Cup in 2026 and the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.
Those new to rugby could be wondering what to expect. Well, going to a rugby match is always exciting and there is usually a relaxed and sociable atmosphere, certainly when compared to football. Fans from both teams mingle and there is no need for segregation as, win, lose or draw, they’ll shake hands at the end of the game. You can take your kids along without fear of them being caught up in violence and abuse, unlike the round ball game. Yet despite it being an action packed, gripping and enjoyable sport, passion for the game is lacking somewhat in the US compared to other countries.
The US head rugby coach is particularly keen for the World Cup to hit US soil, believing it could emulate the successful growth of the game experienced by most recent host Japan. He was quoted as saying, “For us, (Japan) are an unbelievable role model for so many reasons and I’m talking about the USA particularly. This is the reason why I feel so very strongly that if World Rugby genuinely do want to grow the game, as they claim they want to, then USA have to be a contender for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.”
The evidence also indicates that the performance of the US team could be boosted too. Following a defeat against Tonga, there was a despondent feeling from the players that they had not played their best, or achieved their true potential. Remaining positive, they have taken away valuable lessons and are already sowing the seeds for future transformation and success.
Japan faced a similar setback prior to hosting a major rugby tournament. Their highest world ranking prior to the Rugby World Cup in 2011 was 15th, failing to win a single match in the tournament which took place in New Zealand. But in 2015, they succeeded in securing a 34-32 victory in the match against Springboks, whilst also smashing a further three pool games.
Many believe that it was the hosting of the Rugby World Cup that totally changed the Japan’s mindset and approach to the sport and has led them to currently hold the rank of 8th in the world, their highest ever position. Such success would have been laughed at back in 2011 and thought to be impossible to achieve.
The economic potential for the host country of future Rugby World Cups is also significant, as it has been revealed that the impact of hosting the games has led to a 437 billion yen boost for Japan.
Reports also suggest that the recent games have broken all manner of records. The World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont even said it will be remembered as ‘probably the greatest World Cup’ to date. Profits from the tournament are predicted to be in the region of $210m, $20m more than was generated in England in 2015.
Other figures from the 2019 tournament were equally impressive. Match attendance was in the region of 99%, with over 1.84m tickets sold. The cup final in Yokohama between England and South Africa was attended by 70,103 fans, which has even exceeded those who watched Germany and Brazil battle to win the FIFA World Cup in 2002. As technology continues to drive the future of sport entertainment, the recent tournament gained over 1.7 billion digital video views, a trend which is only set to continue for future tournaments.
New developments are on the horizon too, with revelations that dual host selection processes will be in place for both the 2027 and 2031 games. There are also talks of extending the number of teams participating from 20 to 24. While many aspects remain unknown, what is clear is that the prospect of the US hosting the 2031 Rugby World Cup is being met with much excitement and anticipation both at home and across the pond. It’s certainly a case of ‘watch this space’.
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