Rugby World Cup in USA in 2031 set to be held in summer in bid to generate $1bn in ticket revenue… but move to allow NFL stadiums to stage games raises concerns over player welfare with prospect of sweltering temperatures
- The Rugby World Cup’s traditional autumn slot could be moved in the calendar
- On Thursday, World Rugby confirmed destinations for next five tournaments
- The United States has landed hosting rights for the first time in their history
The Rugby World Cup could be moved from its traditional autumn slot to the summer after the USA was handed hosting rights to the game’s glittering showpiece for the first time.
World Rugby on Thursday confirmed the destinations for the next five global tournaments with America the venue for the men’s competition in 2031 and the women’s in 2033.
The USA’s bid for the men’s World Cup involves plans to hold games at NFL stadiums meaning the two competitions must not clash.
Rugby is set for lift-off in the United States after being confirmed as a future World Cup host
Both the Rugby World Cup and the NFL season traditionally start in September.
Asked if that would mean he’d consider a shift on the rugby front, World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said: ‘We would. The US would ideally be slightly earlier (in the year).
‘We need to spend some time thinking about what the challenges are with that. That will involve discussions with professional leagues around the world.
‘We’re not going to do a Qatar and just plonk it in the middle of a lot of other competitions.’
World Rugby wants to tap into America’s vast sporting culture and commercial potential
Gilpin’s Qatar reference was a subtle dig at football’s 2022 World Cup which will start in the Middle East in November and interrupt the Premier League calendar.
Rugby is the latest sport to try and crack the American market but moving the slot for the 2031 World Cup would present a multitude of problems.
It raises the prospect of matches taking place in sweltering temperatures and serious concerns over player welfare.
Playing a World Cup in November or December would clash with the Gallagher Premiership and other club seasons.
‘The USA is the golden nugget everyone wants to get a hold of,’ World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said. ‘It’s the world’s biggest sporting market.’
World Rugby announced on Thursday the women’s event will take place in America in 2033
World Rugby hope to generate an eye-watering $1billion in ticket revenue from the USA men’s World Cup – a figure which has proved impossible for previous tournaments to reach.
Gilpin added: ‘We look at the US in the same way we looked at the opportunity with Japan. It’s an outstanding place to develop the game.
‘We will for sure see a tournament that’s bigger than a $1bn World Cup but I’m hoping we get there before 2031.’
England will host the women’s World Cup in 2025 and the RFU has set an ambitious target of selling out the 82,000-capacity Twickenham for the final.
Gilpin also revealed World Rugby and the sport’s unions have made significant progress on the future of the sport’s calendar.
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin admits the US tournament faces various challenges
Talks in Dublin this week have led to a consensus on bringing in a new global competition which would be played every two years between teams from the northern and southern hemispheres.
One ongoing issue is how the commercial revenue generated from such a tournament would be divided between the competing nations.
Gilpin said: ‘I think there is more intent to get it done this time than ever before. A lot of people need to make some compromises.’
England wing Anthony Watson has confirmed his move from Bath to Premiership leaders Leicester for next season with the Tigers also penning veteran wing Chris Ashton to a new deal and signing the 38-year-old Jimmy Gopperth from Wasps.
Forgotten England and Lions prop Mako Vunipola is set to return from an ankle injury with Saracens in their Challenge Cup semi-final with Toulon on Saturday.