US rugby chiefs formally launched a bid to stage the Rugby World Cup on Wednesday, boldly predicting that bringing the sport to American soil for the first time could be a turning point for the game.
At a launch presentation in Washington, USA Rugby detailed plans to stage the men’s World Cup either in 2027 or 2031, as well as the women’s tournament in 2029, utilising NFL stadia across the country.
“This is a proud moment as we introduce our vision for a Rugby World Cup on American soil,” USA Rugby World Cup Bid chair Jim Brown said.
“After working on this for a year now, we are confident in the strength of this bid, the support around us, the cities and stadiums interested in hosting, our country’s top-level infrastructure for large-scale sports events and the opportunity the US population of sports fans presents for rugby’s growth, both domestically and globally.”
Brown said although bids for the 2027 or 2031 men’s tournaments were on the table, 2031 was seen as the likelier option.
A total of 28 cities have expressed interest in staging World Cup games, with venues including recent Super Bowl hosts such as Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco and Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.
Australia is widely considered to be the front-runner to win the rights to stage the 2027 tournament, with Russia the only other country to have expressed interest after Argentina scrapped plans to stage the tournament.
Rugby has enjoyed steady growth in popularity in the United States in recent years, with the launch of a professional league and test matches such as Ireland’s 2016 victory over New Zealand, which played out before a packed house at Chicago’s Solider Field.
Wednesday’s announcement comes just days before the All Blacks face the US Eagles at FedEx Field, home of the NFL’s Washington Football Team.
San Francisco also successfully hosted the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018, encouraging talk of a bid for the 15-a-side World Cup.
World Rugby is keen to take its flagship tournament to new territories as it attempts to grow the sport, successfully staging the event in Japan in 2019, the first time a Rugby World Cup has been held outside Europe or Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.