Rugby World Cup
Australia priced out of World Cup bid
April 20, 2009
ARU boss John O'Neill has said his country will back Japan's bid for RWC'19 if they decide not to bid for the tournament themselves © Getty Images
The Australian Rugby Union has withdrawn its bid to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup and they may also end their interest in hosting the 2019 tournament due to the global credit crunch.
ARU chief executive John O'Neill admitted the current economic climate forced the re-think about bidding for the 2015 event and admitted it would be a struggle to secure the £96million (A$211 million) hosting fee demanded by the International Rugby Board (IRB) for the 2019 showpiece.
"We won't bid for 2015," said O'Neill, who was the driving force behind Australia's successful staging of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
"We're not out of the running for 2019, but there is a £96 million tournament guarantee required. Given that the decision is going to be made in July this year, it requires someone brave enough to give me a prediction on the exchange rates and all the risk factors 10 years out.
"I'm not sure the IRB appreciates that the world economic recession makes it even harder to get your head around a £96m tournament guarantee 10 years out. In the event we are not in the race, Japan will have our support."
O'Neill went on to predict that the tournament will return to the northern hemisphere in 2015 following the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Television and commercial deals would be more valuable if the tournament is played in a time zone suitable for the major European rugby nations.
"France were so hugely successful (as hosts in 2007) and the nature of the tournament in New Zealand will not be anywhere near the financial success.
"It will no doubt be a successful tournament but I think it's impossible for New Zealand to produce the same financial result that France did. So then it's not too difficult to conclude that it has to go back to the northern hemisphere."
England are considered favourites to win the right to host the tournament in 2015 but the Rugby Football Union have also expressed their concerns about the hosting fees. The bid received initial backing from sports minister Andy Burnham and Prime Minister Gordon Brown but they stopped short of underwriting the cost.
In contrast, their rivals to host the 2015 tournament - Italy, South Africa and Japan - have all received complete government backing.
O'Neill added Australia would back Japan's bid for 2019 if they decided against running themselves. "Japan will have our support. They're bidding for both (World Cups) but I tend to think their best chance is 2019," said O'Neill. "We're working hard in trying to make the numbers work but the numbers are horrendously difficult to justify with that level of tournament fee."
It is understood IRB delegates could be more willing to consider taking the tournament into a new territory in 2019 if they have guaranteed a significant income from 2015.
The International Rugby Board will vote on the venues for both the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups on July 28 this year.
In the latest edition of Ask John, John Griffiths answers queries about Barbarians socks, bi-lingual referees and Lions who weren't Lions
"Here is the line-up I believe will take to the field on Saturday, let the abuse commence." Tom Hamilton has a punt at the Lions' starting XV for the first Test in his latest Tour Diary
"Drafting former Lions heroes and rising stars into your side at short notice may make for great copy but it does not make for a great side." Graham Jenkins on the lesson from the Lions' first loss