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USA Rugby in talks over 2023 World Cup bid

USA Rugby has held board-level discussions over the 2023 Rugby World Cup and is looking into a feasibility study for a bid, according to chief executive Nigel Melville.

The Rugby World Cup will be hosted by England next year before travelling to Japan in 2019, and bids are already being prepared for the 2023 edition of the national team showpiece. The Irish Rugby Football Union this month formally announced its intention to submit an all-Ireland bid to host the tournament, while Italian Rugby Federation president Alfredo Gavazzi said a bid is being prepared as part of a strategy in which Italy is also targeting the 2024 Olympic Games and the 2022 edition of golf showpiece the Ryder Cup.

The US is a growing market for rugby and along with Argentina and South Africa has also been linked with a bid for the 2023 World Cup. Melville told SportBusiness International: “If you consider the trajectory of where we were in 2007 and where we are in 2014, where are we going to be in 2023?

“We do think that there is an opportunity there. We haven’t formalised our plan or anything like that, but we have certainly discussed it at board level and are looking at a feasibility study. It’s something that we’re certainly considering.”

The US national team last month took on New Zealand in front of a 61,500 sell-out crowd at Soldier Field – home of NFL American football team the Chicago Bears. Concerning the availability of rugby-suitable stadia in the US, Melville added: “It’s challenging on all fronts because football fields are a lot smaller than rugby fields so we don’t have the number of stadium options that people might think we have.

“However, there are some great MLS (Major League Soccer) stadiums and we’re starting to identify football stadiums that can host big rugby games. That’s been encouraging and Soldier Field was one, obviously, and there are a number of others. I do think that come 2023 we will have a compelling argument, but that’s not for us to decide.”

Melville’s comments come as it has emerged that the Bay Area of the US has submitted a bid to host the 2018 edition of the Rugby World Cup Sevens. The San Jose Mercury News newspaper said that the bid foresees the tournament to be held at AT&T Park and the new Avaya Stadium – home of MLB baseball franchise San Francisco Giants and MLS team San Jose Earthquakes, respectively.

The US bid is led by the Giants, the Earthquakes and the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, a group that tries to attract international events locally. SportBusiness International understands that a World Cup Sevens bid would be utilised as a first step towards an approach for the 2023 World Cup.

The full interview with Melville discussing USA Rugby’s growth plans will be available in the January/February issue of SportBusiness International, published February 1.