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ManU has "pulled out of the running to host matches at Old Trafford during the 2015 Rugby World Cup owing to scheduling concerns and worries there would be serious damage to the pitch," according to James Riach of the London GUARDIAN. Man City's Etihad Stadium "is expected to replace it on the stadium shortlist." It is "a major blow" for Rugby World Cup Ltd., which needs to sell 2.9 million tickets in order to meet the £80M ($120.9M) guarantee it made to the Int'l Rugby Board before being awarded the tournament. Old Trafford "was expected to stage games during the competition in England and Wales," but ManU has requested that it be withdrawn because of its commitments to hosting rugby league. The Rugby World Cup "will take place in September and October 2015," and United is keen "to avoid any scheduling complications as the club could be competing in the group stages of the Champions League at that time of the season." RWCL "is keen for the competition to be spread evenly across the country and hosting matches in Manchester is crucial" to its tournament blueprint (GUARDIAN, 4/2).
FINDING A HOME: In London, Ashling O'Connor reported the choice of venues for the World Cup "has been beset by problems and delays." After securing more time from the IRB to accommodate the Olympic Stadium, tournament organiszers "promise that the match schedule will be finalised before the end of the month." Although West Ham United is confirmed as the winter tenants of the Olympic Stadium from the '16-17 season, it is "still unclear if it would be possible to halt substantial conversion work to stage World Cup games." Also, there is "uncertainty over the use of Premier League grounds because the fixture list will not be finalised until July 4, 2015, meaning, the Premier League can only offer likely dates." The situation is "complicated further by the police, who could veto dates" (LONDON TIMES, 4/3).