The Council of the International Rugby Board (IRB) has today ratified recommendations from the Board of Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) that the finals of Rugby World Cup 2003 should be staged in Australia alone.

The recommendation from the Board of RWCL followed the refusal earlier this year by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRU) to accept the terms of the offer to host part of the Tournament. RWCL subsequently requested and received an alternative bid for sole Host Union status from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU).

Throughout its deliberations, the Council has been acutely aware of the implications for rugby wherever it is played and remains sensitive to the impact of this decision upon the game in New Zealand, but it was left with no alternative.

Generous accommodations made by RWCL to meet the needs and problems of the NZRU were repaid with consistent failures and wholly inappropriate behaviour. Despite this, the Council determined to give full and fair hearing to New Zealand’s position and to its most recent submissions. However, the outstanding Australian proposal held an attraction, a professionalism and a logic which were irresistible.

The success and profile of Rugby World Cup are fundamental to the work of the IRB and in particular to its programmes of rugby development around the world. Today’s decision brings both finality and certainty to the process, and will enable Rugby World Cup 2003 to achieve its goals.

There is little doubt that relationships have been damaged as a result of these unhappy events. The IRB now holds out the hope that all parties will accept the final outcome with dignity, and that the truly international spirit which cements the sport will quickly heal any wounds.

Background Notes

1998 – IRB and RWCL receive a bid from Australia and New Zealand under which Australia would host RWC 2003 and New Zealand would act as sub host. The bid was presented in accordance with known practice and standard requirements including ‘clean venues’.

April 22nd, 1999 – Satisfactory terms agreed. Australia confirmed as Hosts with New Zealand as Sub Hosts.

November 21st 2001 – The Host Union Agreement (HUA) was signed between RWCL and Australia. It provided that the Sub Host Union Agreement (SHUA) should be signed by December 1st 2001, a date later agreed to be altered to December 8th.

November 30th, 2001 – New Zealand Chairman Murray McCaw confirms by letter to the Australian Rugby Union that ‘as a matter of principle, the NZRFU has no difficulty with the concept that the Sub Host Union Agreement shall be on the same terms as the Host Union Agreement’.

December 18th 2001 – New Zealand sign a draft of a SHUA containing provisions relating to clean stadia identical to those which the NZRU declined to sign on March 8th (The December document was considered unacceptable by RWCL for reasons other than clean venues).

March 1st 2002 – Sub Host Union Agreement provided to NZRU for signature by the final deadline of 8th March

March 8th 2002 – NZRU declines to sign and reserves its position in respect of clean venues.

March 8th 2002 – Invitation to New Zealand to act as Sub Hosts withdrawn by the ARU.

The Rugby Perspective

Rugby World Cup is a major international sporting event, ranked in the top four world sports events. It is the ambition and the duty of the IRB to grow its stature continuously, to improve and enhance the Tournament, and to set the highest possible standards.

RWC represents the sole source of revenue for the IRB to fund its various functions and projects and, in particular, its key responsibilities and objectives in the development, improvement and growth of the game worldwide.

It was from the rugby perspective that RWCL accommodated the NZRU on the following issues –

1) The payment of Aus$10million from the ARU to offset New Zealand’s costs.

2) The agreement to play part of New Zealand s National Provincial Championship during the Tournament. It was the NZRU s contention that this was not only a financial consideration but that it would form part of what was described as the ‘rugby experience’.

3) RWCL’s insistence that one semi final should be played in New Zealand.

For more details contact:

Michelle Treacy
IRB Assistant Communications Manager
T: (353 1) 2409 200
F: (353 1) 2409 201
M: (353) 87 286 5826