Australia is preparing to host a festival of rugby as they gear up for the 2003 Rugby World Cup in a little over a year's time.
Australian Prime Minister, The Honourable John Howard said: "Hosting the 2003 Rugby World Cup is an enormous honour for Australia. As a sports-loving nation and as a nation that has demonstrated its capacity in the recent past to run very effectively major international sporting events, I can assure you that all Australians will welcome the Rugby World Cup here in 2003."
Rugby World Cup 2003 will be played across Australia in ten cities, in seven states and territories and in twelve state of the art venues commencing on Friday October 10th 2003. It climaxes with a week long showcase at the world famous Stadium Australia, the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2000 Olympic Games.
This glittering 80,000 seat stadium will host the two semi-finals, the play-off for third and fourth places and the final itself which will be played on Saturday November 22nd 2007. The Opening Ceremony will also take place at Stadium Australia, followed immediately by the opening game in which the host nation Australia will play the Pumas of Argentina, one of the most exciting teams in the world.
A total of 92 nations which entered teams into Rugby World Cup 2003, has now been reduced to 37 through a series of qualifying matches which began in September 2000 in Norway. Of these, eight have pre-qualified for the finals as quarter finalists from the 1999 Rugby World Cup. They will be joined by the ten nations who will emerge from the qualifying rounds which remain to be played, plus a further two from the ensuing repechage.
In all, nearly two hundred matches will have been played in the qualifying rounds. In the Finals, twenty nations will compete in four pools, from which the top two will progress to the quarter finals. A total of 48 games will be played. During the 24 day period of Pool matches, games will be played on 22 days, providing a non stop feast of entertainment.
Vernon Pugh QC, Chairman of the International Rugby Board and Rugby World Cup Ltd, said: "Rugby World Cup 2003 promises to be the most exciting and vital yet. I am delighted that Australia is the host.
"Throughout, they have demonstrated their enthusiasm and commitment, and rugby fans throughout the world, whether lucky enough to be at the finals or watching from home, can look forward to a very special sporting occasion.
"I am also delighted to be able to welcome our global partners, Coca Cola, Heineken and Visa, who have each already given so much to the game. We look forward to working with them to make the 2003 Rugby World Cup the best ever."
The nations who have pre-qualified in ranking order are Australia, France, South Africa, New Zealand, Wales, England, Scotland and Argentina. These rankings are based on performance Rugby World Cup 1999. The qualifying rounds will fill one place for Africa, one for Asia, two places for the Americas, four places for Europe and two for Oceania.
UEFA has today confirmed the Football Association of Wales (FAW) has been successful in its bid for the Millennium Stadium to host the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday 3rd June, 2017 (kick-off: 19.45hrs GMT).
The winners of a filmmaking competition organised by the education charity Into Film and the WRU enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of the Millennium Stadium - and a chance to be photographed with the WRU's fire-breathing, rugby loving mascot, Scorch The Dragon, and Welsh international, Jake Ball.
The Wales Under 20 camp are in a quietly confident mood as they face Ireland in the U20 Championship, with Coaching Co-Ordinator Allan Lewis and full back Dafydd Howells targeting a top five finish in the tournament.
Wales U20 may start as favourites against Japan this evening in the U20 Championship, but Team Manager Mark Taylor is warning against complacency. He is also hoping a good win will boost morale and 'kickstart' performances.
Coach Richard Hodges is hoping Wales U20 can put a disappointing campaign behind them when they tackle Japan tomorrow as they look to finish the U20 Championship strongly to secure a good seeding for next year's tournament.