Ireland Promises 'Tournament Like No Other' In 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid
The Ireland team bidding to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup is confident that its commitment to deliver a "tournament like no other" will "capture the hearts and minds of World Rugby voters," according to RTÉ. It also hopes to deliver the "largest, most secure" commercial program ever offered to World Rugby for the privilege of hosting the Rugby World Cup. Just one week before the Irish Rugby Football Union will deliver its bid presentation to the World Rugby Council, Tournament Bid Dir Kevin Potts and IRFU CEO Philip Browne promised a tournament "full of Irish spirit, that will capture the imagination of the world and help to drive rugby's global momentum, thanks to Ireland's unrivalled network of emigrants -- the diaspora." While exact details of the financial package being offered to World Rugby "must remain confidential," the IRFU is confident that its financial offer will be "the largest delivered to World Rugby, and the most secure," thanks to the commitment of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland governments. Ireland's 900-page bid document charts an economic benefit tipped to run to €1.5B ($1.8B), with organizers pledging to sell all 2.2 million tickets at an overall rate of 30% lower than England in '15. A list of 12 stadia will be "whittled down to a potential preferred eight," with a fund of €65M ($78M) for further upgrades, allied to €500M ($600M) spent on Irish grounds in the last 10 years (RTÉ, 9/19). The PA reported the IRFU insisted staging the '23 tournament would push the U.S. "ever closer" to becoming a serious contender to host future global competitions. Browne said, "If the rugby community is genuine about wanting to expand the sport, if they want to inspire people from other countries as potential hosts, then we believe we've made it easy for them to do that. What we'd see as a tripartite partnership has to be put in place, between Ireland 2023 if we win the bid, World Rugby and U.S. Rugby. It's about what can we do to increase the footprint of rugby in North America." Northern Ireland's five main political parties have signed letters of support reaffirming the cross-government pledge to pay the £120M ($162.2M) tournament staging fee, "easing concerns" after the Northern Ireland Exec's collapse (PA, 9/19).
'HUGE MARKET': The BBC's Chris Jones reported rugby union has a "huge market" in the U.S. "despite a crowd of just 6,000 watching Saturday's Premiership match in Philadelphia," according to American rugby expert Alex Corbisiero. Saracens beat Newcastle in front of "banks of empty seats." But Corbisiero "is sure rugby union can find a place" in the U.S. sporting society. He said, "I'm completely convinced of that. It's never going to be [alongside] NFL and basketball, but I do think there is a huge space and a huge market. It's disappointing when you don't fill a big stadium -- but, on the whole, the week was a success for me" (BBC, 9/18).
WALES SALES: In Cardiff, Sion Barry reported more than 221,000 tickets have been sold for Wales' Autumn Series, "well ahead of sales this time last year." The game against New Zealand is already a sellout two months ahead of the encounter at the 74,500-capacity Principality Stadium, while other matches in the series, against Australia, South Africa and Georgia, are also "on target to achieve bumper attendances." Total ticket sales for the four games are "fast approaching" the overall attendance figure for last year's and the '14 autumn matches -- with the newly-priced £45 ($60.84) ticket "proving to be the most popular available" (WALES ONLINE, 9/19).