The first direct qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2015 in England will be known at the end of the month after home and away fixtures between perennial rivals Canada and USA.
The Webb Ellis Cup will be present for both legs in Charleston, South Carolina, on August 17 and in Toronto, Ontario, on August 24 to add a little gold dust to what promises to be an epic contest and one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the 2013 Rugby calendar.
The winner on aggregate over the two legs will take the position of Americas 1 at RWC 2015 and will take the spoils as the best team in North America.
The beaten team’s hopes of qualifying for Rugby’s showcase event will remain alive, but they will need to do it the hard way, playing Uruguay home and away for the right to qualify as Americas 2.
The USA-Canada rivalry is important in many sports but for Rugby fans in North America there is no bigger match than the Eagles versus the Canucks. Canada have had the better of recent encounters, most notably the 16-9 victory in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, which was played in Edmonton on May 25.
But the stakes are even higher now with the winners taking their place in Pool D alongside France, Ireland, Italy and the Europe 2 qualifier at Rugby World Cup 2015 and the loser needing to beat Uruguay to join South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asian qualifier in Pool B.
There is little to choose between the two, with the Eagles sitting in 18th position in the IRB World Ranking, just three places behind the Canadians.
IRB Vice-Chairman Oregan Hoskins, who will attend the first leg of the tie in Charleston, said: “The USA v Canada rivalry is one of the most fiercely contested in all of Rugby and over the years they have served up some hugely exciting and intense matches.”
“This time around there is the added context of a place at Rugby World Cup 2015 being up for grabs so we can expect two highly motivated, well-prepared and passionate sides to take the field in front of large crowds. It is this sort of occasion that players relish and spectators look forward to most and I for one am looking forward to it immensely.”
“We have noticed Rugby continuing to go from strength to strength in North America, one of the world’s fastest participation growth regions. Matches like this serve to reinforce that growth as we seek to reach out to more players and fans than ever before.”
“This growth is testament to IRB’s commitment to grow the Game beyond its traditional heartlands and the hard work of the Member Unions themselves in conjunction with the North America Caribbean Rugby Association.”
“Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of our sport, and through the global qualification process there is a clear pathway and opportunity for every IRB Member Union to play at that level.”
In an added boost to the clash, the famous Webb Ellis Cup will be in attendance with fans being given the opportunity to see the iconic trophy in the flesh and have their photo taken with it.
About Rugby World Cup:
In total, the Rugby World Cup features 80 nations. The qualifiers comprise some 184 matches, made up of around 3,000 players across six continents, including the strategic markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China as well as USA, Canada and Mexico.
Rugby participation has increased by 18 per cent since RWC 2007 owing to IRB investment that comes from RWC finances, the positive effect of being included in the programme for the Olympic Games 2016 and the global reach of the Game’s flagship tournament.
Rugby World Cup provides an international stage to promote Rugby and generates 95 per cent of the revenue the IRB invests in achieving its strategic goals, including growing the global Game. Therefore the success of the tournament is vital for achieving the IRB strategic goals.
England was awarded RWC 2015 as it offers a mature Rugby market which is likely to generate strong spectator numbers and significant financial returns. Large iconic venues, an experienced Host Union, the UK major event infrastructure and a prime commercial Rugby market provide an ideal platform to host the Rugby World Cup.
This tournament also offers an important opportunity to continue the development of RWC tournament planning and delivery models and opportunities to grow the game in England and Europe.
Looking further ahead, growing the Game is a key consideration for RWC 2019 in Japan. Asia is a critical market for future growth and Japan is the traditional leader of Rugby in Asia. The JRFU has made significant professional developments in recent years and is well-placed to host such an important event.
A successful tournament in Japan has the potential to generate significant interest in the Game in Asia and ignite a lucrative commercial Rugby market. With 60 per cent of the global population and 80 per cent of the world’s youth living in Asia, this interest could have a considerable impact on the development of global Rugby.
Awarding RWC 2019 to Japan 10 years prior to delivery provides an adequate time scale, if used properly, to prepare the framework to host the tournament in a developing market.
The scale of Rugby World Cup and the importance of using RWC tournaments to achieve wider strategic goals of key stakeholders demand a clear strategic approach for each tournament. These must integrate the IRB goals with those of other key stakeholders, providing a framework for decision making and measuring success.
Sign up to the Front Row and receive ticket updates as well as the opportunity to register your interest in volunteering at Rugby World Cup 2015. Go to www.rugbyworldcup.com for more details.