LONDON (Reuters) – The United States and the women’s game have been identified as massive potential growth areas for rugby and awarding the 2031 men’s and 2035 women’s World Cups to the U.S. is recognition of both, World Rugby (WR) officials said on Thursday.
The United States has been a peripheral performer in the sport, other than brief flashes in the Sevens format, but WR and the country’s own union are convinced the double hosting rights will help propel them the a higher level, both in terms of elite performance and grass-roots participation.
“The U.S. is seen as the Golden Nugget,” WR chairman Bill Beaumont told a Dublin news conference on Thursday that also allocated Australia the men’s 2027 and women’s 2029 tournaments, with England given the 2025 women’s World Cup.
“The country has a huge amount of fantastic athletes – men and women – who probably don’t see a lot of rugby. I think this will give them the opportunity to see our game and we will leave a sustainable sport that will go from strength to strength.”
WR CEO Alan Gilpin said: “We look at the US opportunity a little bit the same way we did with Japan (2019) – it’s a great place to deliver outstanding tournaments and have those really big moments in the sport to get fans and players really excited.
“The two biggest growth opportunities and addressable kind of growth market are the US and the women’s game and so when you bring those things together it genuinely is a bit of a no brainer.”
USA Rugby said it was a pivotal moment for the sport.
“The unparalleled growth made possible by bringing the world’s third-largest sports event and the fastest growing women’s event to the world’s largest sports market cannot be overstated,” it said in a statement.
CEO Ross Young said USA Rugby was entering a new era and must strive to ensure hosting the World Cup was a “springboard” for creating lasting, sustainable enthusiasm and passion for rugby from coast to coast”.
“We look forward to partnering with World Rugby … to ensure that our preparations for these tournaments and the events themselves are a paradigm-shifting catalyst for the growth of our sport, not only here in the United States but around the world.”
Young added that part of the philosophy of the bid was to make it a “mega event”, attracting 3 million fans to the men’s event and another million to the women’s, and utilising the huge number of top-level high-capacity stadiums used for sports like NFL.
USA Rugby plans to use the next decade to drive significant investment in the game at youth, high school and college levels and has targeted membership of USA Rugby to reach 450,000 by 2031.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)