LONDON (AP) — The Rugby World Cup appears set to be heading back to Australia for 2027, leaving the United States as the front-runner to host the event in 2031.
Australia was awarded “preferred candidate” status by World Rugby, the sport’s governing body, on Wednesday. Australia co-hosted the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 with New Zealand and also staged the tournament in 2003, when the Wallabies lost the final in extra time to England in Sydney.
A final decision is expected in May next year.
World Rugby also said it will enter what it described as “exclusive targeted dialogue” with the United States about hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2031. That would mark the first time the event would be held in North America.
Ross Young, chief executive of USA Rugby, called it a “positive next step.”
“This targeted dialogue opens a new door for collaboration and progress, ultimately fueling an optimistic future for USA Rugby and the global game,” Young said.
England was selected as the preferred candidate to host of the women’s Rugby World Cup in 2025.
The announcements come after a review of the selection process for host countries for World Cups.
“The new Rugby World Cup model will see World Rugby take more direct responsibility for the delivery of the pinnacle events,” the governing body said.
The next men's World Cup will be held in France in 2023.
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said Wednesday's decision was a “huge step forward in our ambitions ... and for rebooting the game in Australia.”
“Throughout this process, we’ve held the genuine belief the time was right to bring the Rugby World Cup back to our shores," McLennan said.
At its annual general meeting in April, Rugby Australia said it had recorded a net deficit of 27.1 million Australian dollars ($19.4 million) for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and poor governance, with the governing body losing so much money it even considered reverting to amateur status or involve private equity.
Rugby Australia said if the country hosted the 2027 World Cup, the event was projected to attract more than two million spectators across seven weeks of competition, including 200,000 international visitors, and generate 2.5 billion Australian dollars ($1.8 billion) in “direct and indirect expenditure to the economy.”
AP Sports Writer Dennis Passa contributed from Brisbane, Australia.
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