England have been awarded the 2015 World Cup by the IRB. It will be England’s first time as sole hosts of the tournament, 24 years on from the last time the World Cup Final came to Twickenham in 1991, when the 4 Home Unions were co-hosts. Japan will host the 2019 World Cup, the first time the competition will have strayed outside the 8 traditional powers.
While widely expected, England’s appointment could not be predicted with total confidence given the history of horse-trading and political manoeuvrings which have blighted this process in the past, as well as the fact that England lost 18 votes to 3 to France for the 2007 tournament. An RFU spokesman was asked over the weekend whether he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ to which he wisely replied; ‘No, just cautious’. But their case was compelling and, if a newer rugby nation was to be awarded the next one, England was really the stand-out option.
England fought off competition from South Africa and Italy. Aside from the old ‘rugby coming home’ angle, England’s bid has been based around the use of iconic stadiums with the likes of Old Trafford, St James’ Park and Anfield lined up alongside Twickenham and other traditional rugby stadiums such as Welford Road. Wales’s Millennium Stadium will also get in on the act with pool matches and two quarter finals. No other country can boast as many stadiums of such capacity, and therefore offer the IRB the chance to really fill up its coffers.
This would have been a serious consideration for the powers-that-be. They have been criticised for awarding the 2011 edition to New Zealand, not a country overflowing with modern stadia. That tournament is expected to just about break even, leaving the IRB with a shortfall and reducing the chances of a smaller nation being able to host the tournament any time soon. It was therefore counter-productive to growing the game. The 2015 World Cup in England will be expected to make up that shortfall and has therefore allowed 2019 to be given to Japan, a very commendable move.
Without wanting to get ahead of ourselves as a rugby heartland like New Zealand is sure to put on a fantastic show, we have 2 potentially outstanding tournaments looming on the horizon. Japan is obviously an unknown quantity but they excelled when hosting the 2002 football World Cup and it’s fair to say that they don’t bugger about when it comes to the spectacular.
And England is all set up to follow in the traditions set by Australia in 2003 and France in 2007. It could be the biggest and best yet. The England team are often criticised for rarely straying from their Twickenham base but now rugby will be propelled into all corners of the nation in stadia big enough to cope with what promises to be huge demand. I don’t know about you but I’m up for buying my tickets immediately.