BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The excitement level Down Under of having two Rugby World Cup tournaments tossed their way — the men in 2027 and the women two years later — was sort of lost on Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.
“I will be in the stands with a beer in hand,” the 117-test veteran said not long after World Rugby made the announcement in Dublin on Thursday night.
Hooper, who could be 36 years old depending on the timing of the 2027 version, admits he’ll miss the experience if he does in fact retire by then.
“How good will that be, to be a part of rugby and to experience it on the other side of the fence,” Hooper told the Australian Associated Press. “It would be awesome to be a part of but I’ve been absolutely so lucky with my career.”
Hooper said next year’s World Cup in France would likely be his last with the Australian team.
“You never say never,” Hooper said. “But I’ve got this 18-month period and the Tuesdays get harder and harder and it’s like ‘how much you are willing to take for the rewards?’ It’s a slog at times."
World Rugby rubber-stamped Australia’s hosting rights for the 2027 and 2029 tournaments following a final vote in Dublin. Rugby Australia officials were so convinced they’d secure both tournaments after previously gaining preferred host status that they organized to have the Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up in green and gold — the national sporting colors — three hours before the announcement.
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos estimated the two World Cup tournaments could bring between 50 and 60 million Australian dollars ($34-$41 million) to the sport's governing body which was hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The group had a net deficit of $A27.1 million ($18.5 million) for the 2020 financial year.
“We now have a golden decade of rugby in front of us, with the British and Irish Lions series in 2025, Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029, the 2032 Olympic Games (in Brisbane) and a host of international men’s and women’s teams due to visit Australia for XVs and 7s fixtures,” Marinos said. “Australia will become the center of the rugby world over the next decade.”
Australian Women’s Rugby president Josephine Sukkar said “the impact of what this means, not just for Australia but for the region” will create a legacy for the sport in the country.
“We expect more than 30,000 more men and women participating in the game,” Sukkar said.
Australia women’s captain Shannon Parry said she hopes some of the projected revenue from the tournaments filters down to the women’s game to help the hosts in 2029.
“I think with the announcement of the 2029 World Cup at home we will see those resources and that funding support of the women’s programs,” Parry said. “But there’s no doubt there’s conversations in the background at Rugby Australia to financially support the players and the staff so that we can bring home that 2029 World Cup, something Australia has never been able to do.”
The Wallabies reached the final of the last Rugby World Cup held in Australia in 2003, losing to England 20-17 after flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson kicked a dropped goal with 26 seconds left in extra time. It came before nearly 83,000 spectators at the Olympic stadium in Sydney. It was the first time Australia, champions in 1991 and '99, had staged the quadrennial showpiece since co-hosting the inaugural Rugby World Cup with New Zealand in 1987.
The 2027 men’s even is expected to attract more than 2 million people over seven weeks of competition at eight or 10 venues across the country, including 200,000 international visitors.
In other hosting announcements, the Rugby World Cup will be staged in the U.S. for the first time after being voted as the host of the men’s event in 2031 and the women’s tournament two years later.
England was given hosting rights to the women’s tournament in 2025. The next women’s Rugby World Cup will be played from Oct. 8-Nov. 12 this year in New Zealand, delayed from its original March 2021 date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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