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Kearns named executive director of Australia’s Rugby World Cup bid

Phil Kearns poses after being inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame during the 2018 Rugby Australia Awards at Royal Randwick Racecourse on October 19 (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia has appointed two-time World Cup winner Phil Kearns as the executive director of its bid for the 2027 edition of the national team tournament.

Kearns (pictured) played 67 Tests for Australia and will lead the governing body’s bid for the tournament by working with federal, state and local government, as well as international stakeholders.

Kearns will start the role on September 7 and will report to Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan, as well as bid advisory board chairman Sir Rod Eddington.

After retiring from playing, Kearns worked as chief executive of Centric Wealth and also served as managing director at InterRISK Australia. He is also a board director for AVJennings, Venues NSW and Coolabah Capital, and serves as a patron of the Zero Childhood Cancer campaign.

McLennan said: “Phil has an impeccable international reputation both in the corporate sector and with his network of contacts throughout the rugby world.

“Phil will be front and centre of Rugby World Cup bid team and will lead our international relations to put Rugby Australia in the strongest possible position to win the right to host the 2027 showpiece.

“As part of his role, Phil will spend time overseas to be a key contact with the World Rugby Member Unions, to showcase our bid and to highlight why we would be a tremendous host in 2027.”

Australia is the front-runner to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup after it emerged earlier in the year that Argentina was set to end its bid to stage the event. The Russian Rugby Union has previously expressed an interest in hosting but Australia appears to be the clear favourite.

Following his appointment, Kearns said that securing hosting rights for the tournament would prove crucial in maintaining rugby union’s status within Australian sport. Kearns won the World Cup twice for Australia in 1991 and 1999.

“There was some talk that we’re a second-tier sport heading towards (becoming) a third-tier sport,” Kearns said. “By winning this, it gives us the opportunity that we won’t go to third tier…if you go back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were a tier-one sport in this country.

“We can’t escape the fact that we’ve gone backwards. This gives us an opportunity to turn that around for the long term.”

Rugby Australia has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and has been forced to cut 47 of its 142 full-time staff, and Kearns feels hosting the Rugby World Cup would provide a timely boost.

He added: “The financial windfall it would bring would spark the Australian economy as we rebuild from the impact of Covid-19 and then gives us the opportunity to invest back into the grassroots.”

Australia last hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2003. The 2019 tournament was held in Japan, with the 2023 edition scheduled for France.