With the last Rugby World Cup (RWC) being held in Japan in 2019, the next shot at rugby’s world title will happen in France in 2023. However, this isn’t the highlight of this article. After Japan’s successful hosting of the 2019 RWC tournament, the spotlight has now been placed on the United States of America.
Recently in Dublin, the global rugby officials decided the next five countries to host the RWC and it has been decided that the U.S. will host the 2031 men’s and the 2033 women’s RWC tournaments. Traditionally, the RWC has been hosted by traditionally strong rugby union nations such as England, France, and Australia.
By giving hosting rights to this showpiece event in the U.S. —not known as a traditional rugby territory—World Rugby Union officials hope to gain a foothold in the lucrative North American sports market. The U.S. sports scene is dominated by homegrown sports such as basketball and American football, which culminates in the nation-stopping Super Bowl. Former England rugby captain, now the International Rugby Chief, Bill Beaumont stated that America is the “golden nugget” that all sports want to get a hold of and believes that by taking the RWC to the U.S., rugby will gain popularity in a country that has the world’s biggest sporting market.
Until rugby became an internationally-recognized professional sport in 1995, European and Commonwealth countries mainly played the sport. Since then, though, Rugby has gradually gained popularity all over the world. While the first RWC, hosted by New Zealand, saw 16 countries fight for the title of world champion, the recent 2019 Cup saw 20 countries compete for that honour.
With rugby’s growth in popularity in countries outside the traditional rugby union nations, officials are attempting to restructure the international rugby season to give lower-tier nations—such as the US, Fiji and Japan—more opportunities to play the game. Between the RWC tournaments held every four years, there are limited tournaments for the emerging nations to compete in. Alan Gilpin, chief executive of World Rugby said that there is now a greater focus in providing these nations the competition they need and deserve to prepare for and make them more competitive in the bigger events like the RWC. Through the U.S. being given hosting rights to a RWC, there is a substantial chance for the sport to further gain popularity, creating even more opportunities for different nations to compete against each other in rugby, ultimately growing rugby as an international sport.
Source Japan Times