Australian rugby risks becoming a “third tier” sport if it fails to win hosting rights for the 2027 World Cup, two-time tournament winner Phil Kearns said Wednesday after being appointed to lead the bid campaign.
Kearns, who won the showcase tournament in 1991 and 1999 during a 67-Test career, said he was “enormously excited” to be named executive director of the bid by Rugby Australia.
“There’s a couple of really big roles in Australian rugby at the moment and this is certainly one of them,” the former Wallabies skipper told reporters in a video conference.
Kearns said hosting the 2027 tournament could be “transformational” for rugby in Australia, which is currently struggling with financial difficulties, the Wallabies’ slide to seventh in the world rankings, and bitter infighting.
He offered an unflinching assessment of rugby’s standing in Australia, where it faces fierce competition from rival codes such as rugby league and Aussie rules.
“There was some talk that we’re a second-tier sport heading towards (becoming) a third-tier sport,” he said.
“By winning this, it gives us the opportunity that we won’t go to third-tier… if you go back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were a tier-one sport in this country. “We can’t escape the fact that we’ve gone backwards. This gives us an opportunity to turn that around for the long term.—AFP