Rugby World Cups in 2027, 2029, chance to revitalise game in Australia, Alan Gilpin says

Rugby union needs a strong Australia and awarding the country back-to-back men’s and women’s World Cups in 2027 and 2029 would present a golden opportunity to revitalise the game Down Under, according to World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin.

Gilpin was speaking on Monday after the announcement Australia would be World Rugby’s preferred candidate to host the 2029 Women’s World Cup — a status it already enjoys for the 2027 men’s tournament.

With the fifth Olympic sevens tournaments scheduled to take place at the Brisbane Games in 2032, Australia will have a lengthy period as the centre of the rugby world, offering a chance to arrest the decline of the past few years.

“Australia is a huge player on the international stage,” Gilpin told reporters in Sydney.

“We want Australian rugby to be strong, we want rugby here to be back to being a really strong sport for kids.

Rugby Australia needed a $14 million loan from World Rugby last year after financial issues spiralled into a full-blown crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rugby Australia terminated more than 40 per cent of staff at the start of the pandemic in 2020 — the culmination of a horror period in which former chief executive Raelene Castle left the organisation, it paid an out-of-court settlement to Israel Folau, and it faced a declining supporter base and allegations of mismanagement from former players.

Alan Gilpin looks to one side and talks, wearing glasses and an open-necked shirt with a black jacket
Alan Gilpin says he has been concerned about Australian rugby.(Getty Images: Mark Kolbe for Rugby Australia)

The Wallabies, twice winners of the men’s World Cup in 1991 and 1999, are currently sixth in the world rankings and have not made the semifinals of the tournament since 2011.

The Wallaroos are currently ranked fifth.

Gilpin conceded there had been concern at the state of the game in Australia.

“We want Australia … to be strong on the field, so we were always in the background in those discussions,” he said.

“What we’ve seen in the last two years is devastation for everybody — rugby is not unique in that — so we’ve spent a lot of the last two years financially and more broadly trying to make sure all our members come through this strongly.”

The announcement about the women’s World Cup bid came a week after the Australian government announced a package of financial support for both tournaments.

“[It was] vital,” Gilpin said.

“The Rugby World Cup is a big tournament. Putting these two together is a massive endeavour. It brings a lot of cost, and that’s why we look to governments to support.”

Lori Cramer falls to her side holding a rugby ball under one hand as six other women run and fall behind her
The Wallaroos have never reached a women’s World Cup final.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

The return for Australia is not only the chance to revive the game and increase the participation of women and girls, but also what Rugby Australia estimates will be a $1.8 billion injection into the local economy.

Australia last hosted the men’s World Cup in 2003, losing to England in the final.

It has not hosted any of the previous nine editions of the women’s version of the tournament.

The final vote on the two bids will take place at the World Rugby Council meeting in Dublin in May, where Gilpin is hoping to lock in the hosts of rugby’s major tournaments for the next 12 years.

England is the preferred candidate for the 2025 women’s tournament, while World Rugby is holding exclusive discussions with the United States over the 2031 men’s and 2033 women’s events.

“That certainty is going to give an amazing platform to invest in the game,” he said.


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