UPDATE: 2027 World Cup would be "helpful" moment for Australian rugby: Kearns

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

World Cup-winning Wallaby Rod Kafer says a home World Cup would be a "helpful" moment for the sport but stopped short of declaring the event a "do-or-die" for Australian rugby's survival.

Kearns has been appointed executive director of the bid and will act act as a link between the previously announced World Cup bid advisory board and various stakeholders throughout the process.

"I think it's a very helpful moment," Kearns responded when asked whether he felt winning the hosting rights for 2027 was a do or die moment for the sport in Australia.

"I don't think it'll ever die but I think it gives us the opportunity - there was some talk that we're a second tier sport heading towards a third tier sport.

"Certainly by winning this it gives the opportunity that a) it won't be going to third tier, b) we've got the potential to go to a first tier sport in this country, not a second tier.

"If you can go back to the late 90s and early 2000s we were a tier one sport in this country there's no doubt about it and we can't escape the fact we've gone backwards.

"This gives us an opportunity to turn that around for the long term."

The former Test hooker won two World Cups as a player and has gone onto have a successful corporate career with roles as CEO of Centric Wealth, managing director at InterRISK Australia and a director of a number of organisations.

Kearns has also previously been linked to the Rugby Australia CEO position, going deep into the appointment process before Raelene Castle took over the role in 2017

He had been a vocal critic of the Rugby AU leadership before Castle resigned in April, among a group of Wallabies captains agitating for change.

The former Wallaby hooker said he had confidence in the direction the game was heading under new chairman Hamish McClennan and CEO Rob Clarke.

Starting on September 7, Kearns will answer into McLennan and advisory board chairman Sir Rod Eddington.

Australia is currently the leading contender to host the tournament, with Russia the only other country to have publicly declared its intent to bid.

The USA is also a likely bidder, though it has had its own financial troubles in the past year, while Kearns said there was the possibility that the UK could launch a bid just five years after England hosted the 2015 World Cup.

With no international travel on the cards in the short-term, Kearns said the initial stages of his new job would be about planning.

"In the first stage, it won't be (full-time), it's going to fire up early next year," he said.

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There's a lot of planning to go into that, who are the parties involved, what stadiums are we going to use, what the broadcaster's thinking, what are our sponsors thinking, how do we work with RUPA to make sure they've got a role in winning the World Cup.

"There's a whole bunch of people we need to speak to to get this together. i think a lot of planning will happen before we start to head overseas and do the lobbying for this which is going to be important."

McLennan said Kearns would play a vital role in Australia's work in putting together the 2027 bid.

“Phil has an impeccable international reputation both in the corporate sector and with his network of contacts throughout the rugby world," he said.

“Phil will be front and centre of Rugby World Cup bid team and will lead our international relations to put Rugby Australia in the strongest possible position to win the right to host the 2027 showpiece.

“As part of his role, Phil will be spend time overseas to be a key contact with the World Rugby Member Unions, to showcase our bid and to highlight why we would be a tremendous host in 2027."

Rugby World Cup 2027 Bid Advisory Board Chairman, Sir Rod Eddington said Kearns' experience in the game would be "instrumental" for the bid.

“I’m really pleased to welcome Phil to the bid team and know his experience will prove invaluable as we prepare over the coming months," he said.

“Phil has proven himself to be a high profile rugby leader and coupled with his history in game, will be instrumental for Rugby Australia’s bid."