Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Russia highly unlikely to host Rugby World Cup 2023

Russia Qualified for RWC 2011 in an empty Stadium in Sochi
Aside from Argentina showing interest in bidding to host Rugby World Cup 2023 there have been voices from a number of other unions such as Australia, Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Russia, South Africa and the USA. All have, in some capacity, stated a desitre of hosting the Rugby World Cup in the year 2023. 

Of the nine nations, Australia, France, Ireland and South Africa are all previous tournament hosts with three of the them having been the main stage for at least one Rugby World Cup. The one to not have hosted a final is Ireland which hosted pool and play-off matches in 1991 and 1999. New host venues are therefore Argentina, Italy, the USA and Russia. The Book Argentina 2023 provides an explanation as to why Argentina is the best choice for 2023 and also suggests that Italy´s turn should be in 2027. Both Russia and the USA are also covered but argued as being long term options, and increasingly so as 2023 and 2027 appear to be simply too soon.  

In the case of Russia the year 2013 has all but ensured that Rugby World Cup 2023 stands no chance of being played in it´s country. The Rugby World Cup Sevens event failed to attract the imagination of the city of Moscow with the event not matches previous editions of the tournament. The Russian national men´s rugby team continues to play home matches in the southern city of Sochi and does so in an empty Central Stadium. It is a vastly different scenario to Italy which is better across the board as an option and is head and shoulders the best European option with Ireland possibly next in line. A return to Ireland would retain the tradition of at least one part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland hosting Rugby World Cup matches every eight years. Concerns also remain over Ireland having at least ten cities as the likely bid includes three Dublin venues, two Limerick venues and two in Belfast. 

Unlike Georgia, Romania, Portugal and Spain Russia is not a regular feature in the November internationals as visiting Tier Two teams from North America, the Pacific Islands and Japan do not play international matches in Russia during the annual autumn internationals. Instead of Russia hosting Canada and the USA in November 2012 Russia faced both teams in Colwyn Bay as part of the IRB International Series. This coming November Russia will again face two Tier Two nations with the USA and Japan set to provide the opposition. 

The venue for the November international between Russia and the USA remains unknown but there has been a strong indication that it will be played in England. There have been calls made for the Twickenham Stoop in London to be the venue for the fixture while arguably a better idea would be to use a Rugby World Cup 2015 venue such as Kingshom in Gloucester. Meanwhile the match between Russia and Japan has been confirmed for Colwyn Bay. Russia will therefore not be hosting either Japan nor the USA this November despite having international test matches against both visiting teams. Instead of hosting the matches Russia will face both sides at neutral venues in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

The Northern Welsh city of Colwyn Bay will therefore get a second opportunity to host international rugby and again host World Cup participating nations. In November 2012 all of Canada, Russia, Samoa, Tonga and the USA featured in the IRB International Series and were not entirely happy about it. The USA administration was far from happy with the allocated venue with USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville voicing his frustration at the USA not having a match in London. The USA was happy to fly east to face Romania in Bucharest to complete its tour. While Romania has shown no interest in hosting a Rugby World Cup it achieves better crowds than Russia and is able to host home tests. In November Romania will play host to a very impressive list of opponents - Tonga, Canada and Fiji. Georgia, for its part, will host Canada, the USA and Samoa.

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