The 2027 and 2029 Men’s and Women’s Rugby World Cups are great news for Australia.
I played the first World Cup in 1987 and can’t believe it’s been 40 years since we got the next one on our shores.
Rugby has come a long way since that first tournament and the World Cup is now the third largest sporting event on the planet.
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We saw in 2003 how the World Cup could have an economic impact and how it encouraged rugby to become a truly international sport in Australia.
But the Rugby World Cup would never have started without Aussie, Nick Shehadi and New Zealand officials.
Now looking back to 1987, you weren’t allowed to advertise, it was just a ‘clean’ stadium.
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We used to play Test matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the home of Australian athletes, and because of the rules of the ‘clean’ stadium we had to go to Concord Oval and play in front of 17,000 people at that 1987 tournament – instead of 40-50,000.
I was still living in Quebec in those amateur days and the players had to go to camp in Sydney for a six week vacation.
We used to come three days before the Test match so six weeks of preparation was very unusual because we would rock up on Wednesdays and play Tests on Saturdays.
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And when we were accustomed to touring abroad for a long time, it was a very different ‘trip’ when you were in Australia and knew everyone but it has become the norm for World Cup preparations.
My main memory of the 1987 World Cup was that epic semifinal against France.
I was carrying an ankle injury and I had an MRI after the tournament which revealed a fractured bone that affected my game.
That French game was an introspective but one of the most exciting games of the World Cup.
I was able to break the world record by trying my 25th Test in that game against France but I could have given up everything to beat the French and reach the World Cup final.
It was a disappointing tournament because we had a great team with a lot of players who won the 1984 Grand Slam and the 1986 Bladeslow Cup and it was really disappointing for us to go to Rotorua, play third and fourth.
I am sure that every other country, in every tournament, agrees that the third and fourth game is not what the players want to play.
Towards the end of the 1987 World Cup there were many players who were close for a while and wanted to leave the game.
Then came Bob Dwyer in 1988, to coach the Wallabies, and he introduced many young talents, such as Tim Horan, Jason Little, John Yells, and Phil Carnes, who helped move the Wallace movement forward and helped them win the 1991 World Cup.
We got 20 quids a day to play for Australia in the amateur era and I’m sure everyone who played the game loved the opportunity to represent your country and the culture of the Wallabies and to wear green and gold.
With the announcement of the 2027 and 2029 World Cups we have a great opportunity to show the world again what a great place Australia is.
And a huge opportunity for boys and girls to see their idols play in a real, genuine, international game, a dream for them to one day play for Australia.
Rugby is very fortunate to play in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games so we have got these kids in different formats to represent their country and be the best players in the world.
The 2032 Olympic Rugby in Brisbane is also a huge opportunity and we need to promote Seven as a sport that gives kids more options to represent Australia.
One of the successes of 2003 is that the game went to most parts of Australia and I hope it happens again so that those who are not true rugby fans can go and see the real international game.
Tasmania, Adelaide, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Canberra and Newcastle – a team now playing in the Shoot Shield – hopefully everyone will have the opportunity to host World Cup matches.
I hope we have learned lessons from 2003 when money was wasted and put us in a position when rugby broke up in 2020.
Let’s hope those in charge of the fund really think about the future of grassroots rugby and let’s hope they learn from the past.
The game has struggled a bit in recent years but with this announcement and the opportunity to raise more funds in rugby, we have the opportunity to return to the stage where we are influential in the world and in the Australian game.
With victories in 1991 and 1999 we are ahead of the Kiwis and South Africans – the first country to win two World Cups.
Let’s hope that in 2027 we can win our third World Cup at home and highlight the return of the Wallabies to the top of the world.
I hope every kid, family and club that plays has the opportunity to buy game tickets so they can come and see their idols.
Hopefully one day they will want to be like their idol and finally play for their country.
It’s great that Australia won the bid so let’s celebrate and make the most of it.
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