(Main & Thumb) Australia won the right to be World Champions in 1999, now that they've won the right to host the tournament they intend to ensure that four years on rugby will follow the Web Ellis Cup to the homeland
Rugby World Cup 2003 will see all 20 teams being rotated throughout various cities in Australia as organizers take the world's best players and nations to the wider population across the country.
Previous Rugby World Cup finals series have sometimes seen competing countries play their pool round fixtures in either one city or region. In 2003, most countries will play pool matches in a number of Australian states. For example, defending champions Australia will play pool fixtures in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne while Rugby World Cup 1999 runners up, France play in Brisbane, Townsville, Sydney and Wollongong.
John O'Neill, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Rugby Union said: "We want to demonstrate the full internationalism of rugby in a tangible way to the Australian community.
"This can be achieved by taking as many teams as possible to as many cities as possible so the public can witness first hand the teams in action. That said, no team will be disadvantaged and no team will face a strenuous travel schedule. This will be the player's tournament.
"Further, the Rugby World Cup is more than just the playing of rugby matches. It is a festival conducted every four years where the game's spirit is celebrated by the players on the pitch and by the thousands of fans off the pitch who will travel to Australia in support of their team."
The IRB has reverted to four pools comprising five teams compared to five pools of four teams adopted for Rugby World Cup 1999. As a result, there will be no quarter final play-off matches as were held in 1999.
The top two teams in each of the four pools will progress to the quarter-final stage. Losing quarter-final and semi-final teams will be eliminated with the winning teams progressing through to the final at Stadium Australia in Sydney on November 22nd.
Rugby World Cup 2003 will be a record 44 days in duration - seven days longer than Rugby World Cup 1999. The top eight seeded nations for Rugby World Cup 2003 have been allocated their rankings based on their Rugby World Cup 1999 results.
In order, the rankings are Australia (1), France (2), South Africa (3), New Zealand (4), Wales (5), England (6), Scotland (7) and Argentina (8). The IRB has then seeded the next eight teams, in order, as Europe 1 (9), Oceania 1 (10), Oceania 2 (11), Europe 2 (12), Africa 1 (13), Asia (14), Europe 3 (15) and America 1 (16). The IRB has balanced each pool with the top four countries' ranking points totaling 34 points. For example, Pool A comprises Australia (1 point), Argentina (8 points), Europe 1 (9 points) and Africa 1 (16 points).
The IRB decided in November 2000 to allocate two repechage positions for 2003 instead of four and instead increase the number of qualifiers through qualifying rounds from eight to 10 nations. The two additional qualifying positions have been granted to Europe 4 and Americas 2. Keeping pools in balance both in terms of perceived ranking and regional representation. The last four teams, two of them coming from the repechage competition have been assumed at the same ranking and allocated to the pools to keep them balanced on a regional basis.
The allocation is then:
Pool A 01. Australia
09. Europe 1 (winner of Europe Round 4 Pool A)
plus Europe 4 (runner up of Europe Round 4 Pool B)
Pool B 02. France
10. Oceania 1
plus Repechage 1 (Africa / Europe / America)
Pool C 03. South Africa
11. Oceania 2
14. Europe 3 (runner up of Europe Round 4 Pool A)
plus Americas 2
Pool D 04. New Zealand
12. Europe 2 (Winner of Europe round 4 Pool B)
15. Americas 1
plus Repechage 2 (Asia / Oceania)
By pool, the split of Regions is as follows:
A: 2 Europe 1 Oceania 1 Americas 1 Africa
B: 2 Europe 1 Oceania 1 Asia 1 Repechage
C: 2 Europe 1 Oceania 1 Africa 1 Americas
D: 2 Europe 1 Oceania 1 Americas 1 Repechage
In 2003, pool matches will be spread over four weekends, compared to three weekends in 1999. O'Neill said the record number of 12 midweek fixtures in 2003 would result in maintaining a high level of interest throughout each week of the pool rounds.
"Nine midweek matches were played in 1987 and 1995 and 10 were played in 1991," said O'Neill. "Only four midweek matches were played in 1999 and we believe the spread of games over all days of the week will be welcomed by fans throughout the world."
Once the pool rounds have been completed, all quarter-finals, semi-final matches plus the final will be played on either a Saturday or Sunday while the third and fourth play-off match will be played on Thursday, November 20th. O'Neill also stated a record number of matches will be played either in the early evening or at night.
"At present, we have allocated 44 fixtures to early evening or night timeslots." said O'Neill. "One of the primary considerations for this change is the fact that the tournament will be played in spring and we are particularly mindful of the effects heat stress may cause players if too many matches are played in daytime. It has the additional benefit of delivering the Cup into television friendly timeslots both for Australians and for the world wide audience."
The Welsh Rugby Union is forming a new Youth Board with a brief to help keep more young people involved in the game during their late teenage years and beyond. The first task of the fifteen strong Board will be to analyse and consider the issues which lead to a number of youngsters drifting away from the sport between the ages of 16 and 21. To apply visit www.wru.wales/youthboard
The Foster's Challenge Cup will involve the 12 Principality Premiership sides and will run during European and British & Irish Cup weeks, providing vital fixtures for the participating clubs and an opportunity for upcoming players to step up to semi-professional rugby and make a claim for starting places within the Premiership squads.
Eighty schools and colleges in Wales now have a full time rugby officer as part of the WRU's school club hub scheme. All of the school club hub officers recently gathered at the National Centre of Excellence for various workshops.
With Liam Williams forced out of the World Cup through injury, lock Luke Charteris and Skills Coach Neil Jenkins say they have to put yesterday's defeat behind them as Wales now look ahead to another physical encounter against South Africa in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
WRU Consultant Head of Physical Performance Paul Stridgeon praises the Physical Performance department for their work and dedication as he addresses the media ahead of Wales' Pool A clash against Australia
Twelve young people have been selected to follow a one year WRU Coach Core apprenticeship programme. Coach Core was set up by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry as part of the Olympics legacy in 2012 and the Duke of Cambridge was on hand to meet the apprentices on their first day in the job. The programme has been funded by the Hunter Foundation.
The WRU has launched a campaign to create a long term legacy for Welsh club rugby by highlighting the advantages of volunteering. Rhian Edwards, a volunteer at Seven Sisters, has enjoyed many benefits of her volunteering at a grassroots rugby club including being part of the Rugby World Cup volunteer workforce after being nominated by the WRU - and the WRU is asking for more people to develop their 'Welsh rugby roots'.