Sydney (AFP)

Australia must secure the organization of the 2027 World Cup to prevent rugby from becoming a "third-tier" sport in this country, double Australian world champion Phil Kearns, named head of the committee, said on Wednesday. application.

Former Wallabies captain Kearns, who lifted the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 during a 67-cap career, believes hosting the tournament could "transform" severely financially struggling rugby and sports, the selection having slipped to 7th place in the world ranking.

Rugby Australia suffered a loss of around AU $ 10m (EUR 6.2m) last year. Still weakened by the pandemic, the federation laid off a third of its workforce. Australian Super Rugby players have reached a new pay deal that sees their pay cut by 30% compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic. When the championship was at a standstill, they had agreed to a 60% drop.

Rugby union also faces competition from rival disciplines, rugby union and Australian football, which are more popular in the country.

"I've heard that we are a second-tier sport heading into third," said Kearns, appointed executive director of the bid committee. "Winning (the right to organize the World Cup) will give us the opportunity not to drop to third place ... if we go back to the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, we were a top sport in this country. We cannot deny a step backwards, "regretted the former hooker.

Very critical of Australian leaders in recent years, Kearns, 53, will be supported by his ex-teammate John Eales and former Prime Minister John Howard.

Australia, which co-hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1987, then that of 2003 alone, are favorites against Russia, who announced at the end of July that they were preparing a bid. Argentina withdrew from the race.

With Japan hosting the tournament in 2019 and France hosting the 2023 tournament, it is unlikely at this stage to see World Rugby pick a northern hemisphere country for the third time in a row. The manager of world rugby is due to vote the award in May 2022.

© 2020 AFP