2018 7s RWC: Assessing The U.S. Chances
The IRB announced today that 14 teams have put their hat into the ring to host the 2018 7s Rugby World Cup. Not surprisingly the U.S. was among the group. U.S.A. Rugby had previously announced their intention to bid for the event. Among the rest of the candidates there are some strong contenders with Tier I nations England, France, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales all bidding. Non-Tier I but established 7s nations, like Fiji, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the UAE have also submitted bids. Rounding out the interested countries are the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.
So where does the U.S. stack up among the group? Take the jump to read our take.
To make it simple we'll break it up by country and then discuss the United States.
England: Having Twickenham and the surrounding fields will be a positive (two fields close together are necessary to host the event) but hosting the 15s World cup in 2015 has to rule them out as a serious bid. Two major tournaments in five years is too much.
France: Of the Tier I nations France may be the most intriguing. It's been a long time since France hosted a leg of the IRB Sevens Series and right now it's unclear how the public would respond. Still, it would have been over a decade since they host the World Cup.
New Zealand: No question that New Zealand has a passion for 7s and the Wellington 7s in particular are a highlight every year. However, there were a lot of questions surrounding the 2011 World Cup regarding travel for visiting fans and the overall visibility of the tournament in the rest of the world.
Scotland: Tradition is on Scotland's side as the birthplace of 7s but it's a question of whether the IRB wants to use the tournament to explore new markets. Scotland is also set to host this year's Commonwealth Games.
South Africa: South Africa may be the strongest contender of the Tier I nations. They have great venues/location, a strong national team, and tradition. However, they are also interested in the 2023 World Cup (15s) so if they are forced to choose we bet they would pull out of hosting in 2018, unless they feel they have no chance at 2023.
Wales: With the mess that the Welsh federation is in right now it would seemingly rule them out. However, it's telling that Wales has hosted 15s World Cup matches in the 1999, 2007, and 2015 says something about their sway in the IRB.
Fiji: No country is identified more with 7s than Fiji. They are pushing hard for a stop on the IRB Sevens Series and may get it but in terms of hosting a World Cup they may have too many obstacles to be considered a serious contender. The biggest problem is the lack of a modern large stadium to host the event.
Singapore: Singapore are set to open a brand new stadium. They are also known to be aggressive bidders. All of that goes in the favor. That said, they are being proposed to host matches for the 2019 World Cup and hosting the tournament in Singapore doesn't really take the game to a new market.
Hong Kong: The city-state holds the same problem as Singapore in terms of the 2019 World Cup. Plus, they have hosted the 7s RWC two of the six times it's been held. It would hardly be breaking new ground.
UAE (Dubai): The biggest hit against Dubai is that the World Cup is pretty much set for the summertime meaning that it is too hot to play safely there. Also, it hosted the tournament in 2009. Still, it has some impressive facilities and players love playing there.
Netherlands: Selecting the Netherlands would definitely break new ground for the IRB and it would be a central location for fans around Europe. Stadiums aren't an issue either. However, their men's 7s team hasn't done much in the way of strong play and they aren't the most well resourced union meaning they may struggle to put on the event.
Portugal: Portugal offers a lot of the same positives as the Netherlands in terms of location and stadiums. However, they haven't hosted a large tournament before and the union hasn't shown it's capable.
Spain: See Portugal.
So where does the U.S. stack up in this group? On the surface there is a lot to like about the U.S. bid that has to put it near the top of the list. It has a number of stadiums with secondary fields that would be perfect for the event. The Las Vegas 7s is growing in popularity and with rugby's inclusion in the Olympics the sport is getting more attention. U.S.A. rugby (bear in mind they don't run the Las Vegas 7s) has shown they can run a successful tournament when they hosted the Junior World Rugby Trophy in 2012. They've also been on a string of successful matches involving Tier I nations. The enormous television audience in the U.S. is also attractive.
Still, it's not a guarantee that the U.S. will host. Other countries have tough bids and offer a lot of the same positives as the United States. But none of those countries would be breaking new ground. All the Tier I nations have hosted some large tournament in the past and placing the 2018 World Cup in those countries would essentially be preaching to the choir. Placing it in the U.S. would offer the chance to possible expand the game to new fans. U.S.A. Rugby has to prove that they won't have an empty stadium like what we saw in Moscow.
In the end it all comes down to politics. Tier I nations have more votes in the IRB than Tier II or Tier III nations and often they only look out for each other. As we've seen with past IRB events, or even FIFA events, the best bid doesn't always win.