The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup race is shaping up as a trans-Tasman showdown and it's a battle Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle is confident Australia can win.
England, Wales, France, Portugal, New Zealand and Australia were initially touted as prospective bidders for the 2021 tournament but England and Wales have reportedly withdrawn interest ahead of Friday's submission deadline.
The Southern Hemisphere has never hosted a Women’s Rugby World Cup in nine iterations of the tournament, leaving New Zealand and Australia as the two likely front runners for the 2021 competition.
Though World Rugby hasn’t articulated any desire to take the tournament south, Castle said it should be a key factor in the decision and didn't take long to point out their biggest rivals.
“We think there's four or five other nations and we know our Kiwi friends over the ditch are putting a bid forward,” she said.
“That's why today's announcement is so important to make sure that we get out there and promote our bid and the professionalism and the opportunity that we have here in this market and greatly appreciate the support of the NSW government allowing us to get to this stage.”
“They haven't given that specific indication but they also understand the importance of making sure the game develops right across the world so I would expect that that's a huge advantage for us,” she said.
Both countries have increased their focus on women’s XVs in recent months, with support for the sport critical to winning the bid.
Rugby Australia launched a new women’s competition, Super W, this season and will offer match payments to the Wallaroos for the first time when they take on the Black Ferns next week.
New Zealand’s Black Ferns have been centrally contracted this season, making the team semi-professional for the first time.
Australia unveiled its bid for the Cup on Wednesday, with Newcastle and the Hunter region to host the competition should they be successful, with the final to be held at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium.
Australia’s Wallaroos have never made a World Cup final but finished third in the 2010 tournament in Canada.
But while New Zealand may be more of a threat on the field, Castle said the support pledged to the tournament by the federal and NSW governments, and the high-standard training and accomodation available for the teams in the Aussie bid, would give Australia the edge.
“Experience in delivering world-class events,” she said.
“We have a long history in Australia and particularly in NSW of being the lead in delivering those world-class events.
“So, the confidence to raise the commercial support, the governmental support is a really important part of our history and they will have confidence that we're going to be able to deliver a successful tournament and really take what is the Women’s World Cup to the next level.”
The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup host will be named on November 14.To get behind the bid, use the tags #Ready, #BackTheBid or #Australia2021 on social media. For more info, visit australia2021.com.au.