US hopes of hosting men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in 2029 and 2031 got a boost from Capitol Hill on Thursday, with the introduction of a bipartisan congressional resolution expressing support for the bid.
The resolution was introduced by the co-chairs of the Congressional Rugby Caucus, Alex Mooney, a West Virginia Republican, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat from Washington DC.
Mooney said: “As a former college rugby player at Dartmouth College, I continue to enjoy watching the sport … as co-chairman of the Congressional Rugby Caucus, I am proud to be an advocate for the Rugby World Cup.”
Holmes Norton said: “Rugby has made a difference to the youth of the District of Columbia and across the country in terms of health, self-esteem, teamwork and social skills. I am proud to support the US bids to host the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup tournaments.”
Sean Casten, an Illinois Democrat, and two Republicans, Richard Hudson from North Carolina and Paul Gosar from Arizona, also co-sponsored the measure.
The US will compete at the next women’s event, in New Zealand this October, a tournament delayed by the Covid pandemic. England is World Rugby’s preferred host for the women’s tournament in 2025 while the US is in exclusive talks for 2029.
The next men’s Rugby World Cup will be played in France in 2023. The US will face Chile in a two-legged qualifier this year. Australia has preferred candidate status for 2027 while the US is in “exclusive targeted dialogue” for 2031.
In December, USA Rugby chief executive Ross Young told the Guardian: “We’ll either be awarded the World Cup in ’31 in May, or they’ll go back to the drawing board. They’re not going to announce anyone else.”
Russia also launched a bid – before the invasion of Ukraine and the political, business and sporting pariah status it brought.
The US men’s professional competition, Major League Rugby, is in its fifth season. Some around the world saw a Test between the US Eagles and New Zealand in Maryland last October – won 104-14 by the All Blacks – as a reversal for the US World Cup bid. Young disagreed.
He said: “The huge attraction of a World Cup coming here is rugby really starting to unlock, or using this 10-year pathway to unlock, the biggest media market in the world. Or unlock the potential for that media market.”
The US bid includes NFL and college football stadiums.
On Thursday, the chair of the USA bid, Jim Brown, said: “Today’s resolution demonstrates a clear commitment to growing the game of rugby and advancing the United States’ Rugby World Cup bid – which will have important economic and cultural benefits at both the domestic and international level.”
USA Rugby said that “in addition to conveying congressional enthusiasm for the bid”, the resolution “encourages President Joe Biden and relevant federal agencies to support the bid committee in their ongoing efforts. It also pledges that Congress will give full consideration to legislative proposals or other requests to support preparations for these important events”.
The governing body also said: “Co-ordination across local, state and federal government agencies is … ongoing. The bid leadership team has been in close contact with officials across all levels of government to discuss the commercial and cultural value of bringing one of the world’s largest sporting events to US soil for the first time.”
There is a rugby fan in the White House. Biden has said he played at law school, and spoken of following an All Blacks tour in Ireland when he was a young senator. He also has a commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, who played the game at Harvard.
The administration has not responded to Guardian requests for comment about the president’s playing and touring days.
In November, however, Biden both wished Ireland’s men’s luck before their game against the All Blacks in Dublin and celebrated the stirring victory which followed.