USA chosen as host of Rugby World Cup

When the FIFA World Cup came to the United States in 1994, there was a lot of skepticism. Could a sport featuring low-scoring matches played by unknown foreign stars capture the imagination of parochial American fans? As it turns out, the answer was yes: the World Cup helped kick off a soccer boom in the United States and opened up a valuable new market for a global sport.

It’s still a long way off, but rugby officials are hoping for something similar after awarding the 2031 Men’s and 2033 Women’s Rugby World Cups to the United States on Thursday. The 2031 tournament will be the first men’s Rugby World Cup held in the Western Hemisphere. (The women’s event was held in Canada in 2006.)

Because rugby’s reach is more limited geographically – only a handful of nations play it at an elite level, and only four have won its biggest championship – the Rugby World Cup does not reach the heights of viewership enjoyed by the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. But the men’s event is one of the few international competitions that can plausibly lay claim to being the third biggest sporting event in the world. Rugby officials acknowledged on Thursday, when announcing the hosts of five future tournaments, that they were looking to raise the profile and reach of the sport.

“Today we approved three exceptional Rugby World Cup host countries – England, Australia and the United States – providing unprecedented certainty and an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate growth and development. ‘impact of rugby on a global scale,’ World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said after the programme. of events was approved by the World Rugby Council at its annual meeting in Dublin. “It’s great for rugby, for the fans and for the host nations.”

The World Cups awarded to the United States were among the five finalized on Thursday. All the championships that will take place before the arrival of the event in America have been entrusted to traditional powers: France in 2023 and Australia in 2027 for men, and New Zealand in 2022, England in 2025 and Australia in 2029 for women. World Cups in England and Australia were approved along with bids from the United States on Thursday.

Rugby officials also said they were committed to building relationships with each host country’s national governing body. The goal, Beaumont said, was “long-term sustainable development, including in the United States and in women’s soccer.”

While the United States men have played in previous editions of the Rugby World Cup, they usually face it against the big powerhouses of the sport. The Americans have qualified for the last six World Cups but are only 2-21. In the team’s last international game, in October, they lost to three-time World Cup champions New Zealand, 104-14.

The USA women’s team fared better on the court, winning the first World Cup in 1991 and finishing fourth in the last tournament in 2017.

Yet rugby has always struggled to find its place in the crowded American sports landscape, already loaded with professional and college games in sports far more familiar to American fans. Increasingly, international events intrigue these fans, but football matches and Formula 1 races are still a few steps ahead of rugby.

With their own eyes on the vast and lucrative US market, cricket officials made a similar move, naming the United States co-hosts of the 2024 Men’s Twenty20 World Cup along with West Indies.

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