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World Rugby to launch joint selection process for men’s and women’s World Cups

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper

World Rugby has announced that it will select the next two hosts for both its men’s and women’s World Cups at the same time, running a joint bidding process for the four events.

Rugby union’s global governing body will begin the dialogue phase next February, inviting bids for the tournaments by May, and hopes to put the final proposals to a vote at its Council meeting in May 2022. 

The tournaments in question are the women’s World Cups in 2025 and 2029, and the men’s equivalents in 2027 and 2031. 

World Rugby says that running the process in such a fashion will allow it to “identify and develop partnerships that will optimise delivery, financial and legacy objectives” for its flagship competitions. 

Acknowledging the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its decision, World Rugby added that it would place “collaboration and partnership to develop bespoke bids that optimise strategic objectives for host nations…at the heart of the model”. Last year, the World Rugby Council approved joint nation bids for the World Cups, something it may encourage to help countries spread the costs of hosting the event. In April, World Rugby unveiled a $100m relief fund to help its members through the pandemic.

The announcement means World Rugby can put in place commercial plans for the next decade as it begins its long recovery from the pandemic, with chief executive Brett Gosper saying that a joint selection process “enables us to go to market with a very strong proposition for potential commercial and broadcast partners, which is great for the economy of the sport and great for the return of the sport for World Rugby and our drive to grow the sport around the world.”

The news is likely to have been well received by Rugby Australia, which is widely known to be plotting a bid for the 2027 edition, because the move mirrors that which saw England and Japan awarded the 2015 and 2019 tournaments respectively.

Gosper has admitted selecting a major rugby heartland like England allowed the body to take a “risk” on Japan for the following edition; and with the emerging rugby marketplace of the US a firm favourite for 2031, Australia could represent the safe selection for 2027. 

The US will also have been boosted by the numbers World Rugby has reported after last year’s tournament. Japan 2019 was confirmed as “the most economically-impactful Rugby World Cup ever,” delivering a boost of £4.3bn ($5.6bn) to the country’s economy but arguably more importantly from a World Rugby perspective, significantly growing interest in the sport. The prospect of similar uptick in the US, the world’s biggest sports market, would represent a major boost to the country’s bid. 

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The global Covid-19 pandemic, while incredibly challenging, has provided the opportunity to press the reset button and examine how we can do things differently and better.

“This ground-breaking dual awarding process reflects our vision to further align the selection process of our men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups, providing longer-term certainty in terms of preparation and partnership with World Rugby for future hosts, maximising legacy, sustainability and engagement outcomes.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has already given his backing to a potential Russia bid to host the 2023 edition, while Argentina is also thought to be considering hosting the tournament.