ARU angrily dismiss venue switch speculation

ARU Managing Director John O’Neill said the claims, made in British newspaper the Daily Mail, were untrue and mischievous.

“We are duty bound to respond every time this mischief surfaces,” O’Neill said.

“We are in the final stages of negotiating the Host Union Agreement (HUA), which will be completed well in advance of similar negotiations for the 1999 Cup in Wales and the 1995 Cup in South Africa.

“The negotiation is robust, as you would expect, but we are on track.”

The report in the Mail claimed there were problems with the “financial package” being put together by the host nations.

It said that the HUA had not yet been signed and that England and France were “on standby” to step in and stage the tournament.

O’Neill, however, insisted he had been assured by the International Rugby Board (IRB) that there was no threat of the tournament being moved to France after similar rumours surfaced earlier this year.

He said planning was already so advanced that the tournament schedule would be released within the next month, still two years from the start of the tournament.

“Australia is a country with a wonderful record in hosting the world’s biggest events,” O’Neill said.

“We handled the Olympics extremely well and recently the Lions Tour and the Goodwill Games went off without a hitch.

“The IRB has told us there are no plans to relocate the tournament so Australia and New Zealand are continuing with our plans, which are well advanced.”

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) said on Tuesday that it was ready to make a solo bid to stage the World Cup in 2007.