Kearns to head Australia’s 2027 Rugby World Cup bid

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Phil Kearns in action during the 1999 Rugby World Cup, which the Wallabies won
Phil Kearns in action during the 1999 Rugby World Cup, which the Wallabies won AFP/File

Two-time Rugby World Cup-winner Phil Kearns will lead Australia’s bid to host the tournament in 2027, the sport’s national governing body said Wednesday.

Kearns, who won the showcase tournament in 1991 and 1999 during a 67-Test career as Wallabies hooker, said he was “enormously excited” to be named executive director of the bid by Rugby Australia.

“The World Cup in 2027 would be transformational for the game in this country,” he said in a statement.

“The financial windfall it would bring would spark the Australian economy as we rebuild from the impact of COVID-19 and then gives us the opportunity to invest back into the grassroots of the game.”

The 2027 World Cup is seen as a way to unite a sport struggling with financial difficulties, the Wallabies’ slide to seventh in the world rankings, and bitter infighting.

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Kearns, 53, will work on the bid with an advisory board that includes his ex-teammate John Eales and former prime minister John Howard.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan said Kearns had an “impeccable international reputation” and would use his extensive contacts throughout the game to boost Australia’s bid.

“As part of his role, Phil will 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,” McLennan said.

Australia jointly held the inaugural World Cup in 1987 with New Zealand, and took sole hosting duties in 2003.

It is considered the front runner for 2027.

Argentina pulled out of the running earlier this year and the only other country to publicly express interest is Russia, although — with France hosting in 2023 — there would probably be resistance to holding back-to-back tournaments in Europe.

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World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has also canvassed the prospect of the United States launching a bid, despite USA Rugby filing for bankruptcy earlier this year.

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