The International Rugby Board (IRB) at a meeting in Dublin gave Australia the formal go ahead to stage the fifth Rugby World Cup in October and November 2003.
Speaking in Sydney, Rugby World Cup General Manager, Matt Carroll, today released an immediate action plan for preparations saying they are on track and planning would now "go operational". He said the immediate priorities are to:
- Determine the match schedule for 48 matches across seven weeks
- Lock in venue agreements now that the sole hosting status is confirmed
- Further build the management and staff team that will plan and stage the event
- Formulate marketing communications, ticketing and advertising programmes
"We have a tight time frame but we have the plan, the experience and the people to deliver the best Rugby World Cup ever," said Carroll. "Although the kick off is less than 18 months away, we have been on the job since winning the right to host the Cup back in 1997.
"Our plans have been signed off by the IRB in principle and some fine tuning will see us comfortably accommodate the additional 23 matches that result from being the sole host. The Rugby World Cup match schedule will embrace the nation with matches played in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra as well as a number of regional centres. Which cities host which matches will not be confirmed for another month.
"Just as the Olympics caught the imagination of Australia, I expect the Rugby World Cup will do the same but with a different and more intense kind of passion, enthusiasm and interest that only rugby can generate. The excitement and celebrations that we witnessed during last year's tour by the Lions will be seen over and over again toward the end of 2003 when twenty nations do battle for the ultimate prize in world rugby.
"The Australia Rugby Union is in the fortunate position of having excellent partnerships between venues, State and Territory Governments and the host cities. It is these partnerships that will help us deliver what we have promised. I will be traveling to Dublin next week to meet with Rugby World Cup Limited to discuss finalizing the match schedule as well as issues such as venues, timetable, ticketing, marketing, broadcasting and technology.
"We will also be building the team of people that will deliver the Rugby World Cup and preparing our communications campaign to inform people in Australia and overseas about the event. This team will also work on a range of programs such as media, tourism, volunteers, logistics, transport, security, education, accommodation, training, health and community-based celebrations."
Carroll said following the launch there would be several milestones in the lead-up to the event:
End of 2002 - Release of ticketing programme
Beginning of 2003 - sale of tickets
Beginning of 2003 - call for volunteers
Third quarter of 2003 - arrival of the teams ahead of the pool matches and the finals in October and November 2003
"In the near future, we will be in a position to launch the event and begin telling the people of Australia about the Rugby World Cup, which is one of the most exciting events on the international sporting calendar," Carroll continued. "While we are driven by the desire to put on the best ever Rugby World Cup, we also want to ensure that we deliver a strong and lasting legacy for Rugby Union in Australia, at both a grassroots level and financially."
Porthcawl recently received a WRU facilities grant and funding from Natwest RugbyForce in order to give their changing rooms a facelift. This came after receiving £10,000 in a WRU facilities grant last year to tarmac their car park. The improvements have already helped to make the club more accessible, not only for their own members and players but for the whole community.
The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a new, accredited Safeguarding and Protecting Children course - funded by the WRU and delivered in partnership with Sport Wales and the NSPCC - fo rugby club volunteers around Wales.
The SWALEC semi-final draws threw up some mouth-watering clashes in the Cup, Plate and Bowl as the 12 teams aim for the Millennium Stadium Finals Day. All the semi-finals are to be played on the weekend of April 12.
Welsh whistler Rhys Thomas continues to scale the heights of the game as he prepares to be an official in this weekend's Hong Kong Sevens tournament, undoubtedly the showpiece event on the World Series calendar.
Wales International Ian Evans and Wales and Lions legend Scott Quinnell swapped rugby balls for paint pots at Tonna during the RBS 6 Nations. They surprised club players with a special clubhouse makeover to launch NatWest RugbyForce 2014 - a programme developed in partnership with the WRU to make rugby clubs stronger businesses by improving and renovating their facilities with the support of volunteers and the local community.
Fresh from claiming the Bowl honours in Tokyo last Sunday, the Wales Sevens squad have settled into their routine as they prepare for this weekend's Hong Kong tournament where Iolo Evans is aiming high, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.
The Welsh Rugby Union has recently teamed up with Prostate Cymru to help the charity launch its latest campaign to raise awareness of the disease. Members of the Wales squad helped produce a short video and promotional material for the campaign titled 'The Best Defence - is to know the FACTS'.