Could rugby finally crack America? How hosting the 2031 and 2033 Rugby World Cups could boost the sport in the US

 Could rugby finally crack America?  How hosting the 2031 and 2033 Rugby World Cups could boost the sport in the US


Chris Robshaw has given his clear support for the 2031 and 2033 Rugby World Cups, hosted by the United States, which were announced by World Rugby in Dublin on Thursday, with England in the 2025 women’s event. With England to host and Australia with men in 2027 and women two years later.

Robshaw, a former England captain and back-line harlequin, lives in Colossus, California, and plays for the San Diego Legion in Major League Rugby (MLR).

speak with I This week, both Robshaw and MLR commissioner George Kilbrough outlined compelling theories for underpinning their passion for hosting the World Cup in the United States, in the sport’s second major geographic leap after Japan 2019.

Some may view it as a gamble, but Robshaw says it is a two-sided coin where everyone wins. “We’re looking for new audiences for rugby as the game gets to a level, in England, South Africa, France, Australia, New Zealand, where you ask, are you going to attract more fans who love it? Already not looking? Moving to a relatively new place – it’s only been five years since MLR – the support for the World Cup in the schools and universities here will be huge.

“There’s a lot of talk about it in our club, especially among Americans. You can hear them talking about their overseas tours and their games in Wales and Scotland and they want that fun and rugby values ​​in America They are proud of the sport and want to see it grow.

“Americans generally look at sports differently: they know how to sell things, they know how to promote them. The other day I took my little boy to the park and maybe 50 people including me All of us had hats or merchandise or bumper stickers for the San Diego baseball team Padres. Will rugby in this country ever be like the NFL or the NBA – I’m not sure. But it could be like an MLS. [Major League Soccer]Which gets 15,000 to 20,000 for games and it’s a great product.”

Kilbrough, speaking from his Dallas office, also mentions MLS. The football league is 28 years old and currently selling franchises with an entry fee of £200m and was promoted by the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States.

Kilbrough is excited about MLR’s opportunity to do ‘the exact opposite’ in rugby. “It gives us a ‘North Star’ to target,” said the former NBA Dallas Mavericks chief revenue officer. “The MLR is a professional league with 13 teams – 12 in the United States, one in Toronto, Canada. If you look at this nine-year runway to the World Cup in 2031, if we have a new team or in a year Two, we’re going to have a 28-team league in every metropolitan area in this country.

MLR commissioner Kilbrough remains positive about the future of the sport in the US (Picture: Getty)

“As more kids start playing sports, academy programs continue to grow, and our college facilities continue to grow, by the time the World Cup arrives, MLR has done its job of irrigating the United States and preparing us.” would have done.

“One caveat – when the 1994 World Cup was played there were millions of kids playing football. USA Rugby [the national governing body that is coming out of bankruptcy] It has gone through its trials and tribulations and we are confident that we now have 100,000 registered participants. So that’s the challenge. We look forward to working with World Rugby on this front. This is the greatest land of opportunity.”

The new establishment of joint ventures between World Rugby and each World Cup organizing committee must decide whether to hold the United States World Cup in one region or beyond. “It would be great to be able to travel across the country,” says Robshaw, whose club owners Darren Gardner and Ryan Patterson were involved in USA’s bid. “Different food, hospitality, stadium, pitch surface… Fans from traditional countries will absolutely love the chance to visit a new place. And the traveling crowd will bring their own stories and traditions of the World Cup. ,

The United States women’s team is not as strong as it used to be, while the men will have to beat Chile this summer to qualify for the 2023 World Cup in France. Joe Biden, on the other hand, sent a letter expressing federal support for the US bid, and the president’s distant cousin, former Ireland and British and Irish Lions full-back Rob Kearney, dropped an oval ball in the Oval Office last month. Gave.

Kilbrew points out that President George W Bush and Bill Clinton also have rugby ties, as do many CEOs of major US companies, and that he can see them clinging to the World Cup, as billionaire Mark Cuban “quietly”, Without fanfare. The men and women of the United States financed the trip to the World Cup. Rugby Sevens will be played at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, and the New Zealand All Blacks Test with the US Eagles drew 40,000 fans to the Washington Commanders’ NFL Stadium last October.

Some experimental English Premiership games did less well, but Kilbrough would welcome back European and Super Rugby games. “The rising tide lifts all boats,” he says. “I’ve spent most of my career in basketball and a little bit in football. Rugby athletes are the most marketable to anyone I know. Not only are they extremely fit, you can put them in front of a camera and they’re fantastic. There are speakers, great ambassadors who do clinics and autographs and do everything you need to do to develop a sport in this country.”


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