Just two years after rugby in Australia almost unimaginably slid away back to the amateur days, rugby is back in the biggest way possible.
In a landmark moment for the game, Australia was confirmed in Dublin on Thursday as the host of the men’s World Cup in 2027 but the country will also host the 2029 women’s World Cup.
As the announcement came down, the Sydney stars were blocked by thick clouds and rain but the Harbour Bridge was shining bright in yellow and green.
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Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, 30, will be only 35 by the time the World Cup is played on home soil, but just as he cruised over Sydney Harbour on the ferry he will be taking it easy by then.
“I’ll be sitting in the stands with a beer,” the most-capped Wallabies captain responded, when he was asked for the second time in as many days whether he would be hoping to appear at the World Cup.
His Wallaroos counterpart, Shannon Perry, meanwhile said the World Cup announcement can be the springboard for women’s rugby in the country.
It will be the first time Australia has hosted a rugby World Cup in almost a quarter of a century, when Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to glory on a November night in 2003 and started the game’s decline.
A week earlier, a young 12-year-old Hooper watched Stirling Mortlock intercept mercurial All Blacks playmaker Carlos Spencer and “run what felt like 150 metres but was closer to 75” and score to send the Wallabies through to the World Cup final.
After blowing the $42 million war chest, the World Cups, as well as the upcoming England series and 2025 Lions tour, are poised to pump $100m into the game.
The 2027 World Cup will also generate $2.8 billion for the nation’s economy.
With that, it gives Rugby Australia one last chance to secure the game’s future, while attracting 217,000 international visitors.
“Tonight’s World Rugby announcement will be the most significant moment in Australia rugby’s history winning RWC 1991 that put Rugby on the map in Oz,” two-time World Cup winner Tim Horan tweeted.
“Hosting men’s 2027 and women’s 2029 RWC will grow participation and provide financial security for our game for generations.”
While Parry sat on the fence when it came to where the World Cup final should be played, Hooper showed his NSW bias when he said “Sydney”.
Sydney, as well as Melbourne’s MCG and Perth’s Optus Stadium, are in the running to host the final because all three venues can seat more than the required 60,000.
While the men’s World Cup is five years away, Rugby Australia is fully cognisant of the fact they can’t drop the ball again.
Plans are already underway to invest in the windfall, with chief executive Andy Marinos and chairman Hamish McLennan intent on creating a legacy.
“Based on a lot of the discussions taken place over in the last few years, and the board that Hamish McLennan assembled, the discussions around if we were to win the World Cup and have a reasonable payday, this money has to invested in the game, not spent, invested,” Rugby Australia president David Codey told foxsports.com.au.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any wild fanciful projects.
“The term a ‘future fund’ has been mentioned, how do you preserve capital for the benefit of rugby at all levels because I wouldn’t disagree, we haven’t been smart as a code.
“But there’s a very clear understanding that if we get this, we may never get another World Cup, so therefore we have to make this count and I’m very, very confident that that is what will happen.”
For now though, Australian rugby has the chance to celebrate what shapes as a golden decade ahead with a Commonwealth Games in 2026 and Olympics in 2032 to ensure rugby is at the forefront of the sporting landscape in the country.