England to go solo in 2015 World Cup bid

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The Independent Online

Rugby Football Union chairman Martyn Thomas has confirmed England will launch a solo bid to host the 2015 World Cup.

England's proposed bid yesterday received the support of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and sports minister Andy Burnham after high-level talks at Downing Street.

Scotland, Wales and Ireland have all expressed an interest in staging the 2015 World Cup - but none of them have the facilities to host the tournament on their own and would have to rely on joining forces.

Any hopes the Celtic unions had of submitting a combined home nations bid now appear to have been scuppered.

But Thomas did say England would consider moving some matches to take advantage of facilities like the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

"England will bid for the World Cup," said Thomas.

"We have certainly had very good discussions with the Welsh in terms of using the facilities they have, particularly the Millennium Stadium but also the Ospreys and maybe the new Cardiff stadium.

"I am sure if we go ahead with the bid we will certainly involve games in Wales. We haven't totally ruled out games further north.

"We want to make sure there are games in the north of England and that it reaches out to as many people as possible."

Thomas met with Mr Burnham yesterday and outlined the levels of financial support the RFU would require to host the tournament - now considered the world's third biggest sporting event - for the first time since 1991.

Thomas reported a positive response, and further meetings are now planned.

"I am pleased to say Andy Burnham has indicated today he is very happy to sit down with us and give us some support," explained Thomas.

"There seem to be potentially two other countries that are likely to be strong contenders - where their government has come very strong to say they will, as we are told, under-write the bid totally. One is in Europe and one in South Africa.

"I have had a very positive meeting with Andy Burnham, who is the boss, and with Gordon Brown - who is the ultimate boss! Certainly Andy is very supportive in helping us win the Rugby World Cup."

Mr Brown offered his support publicly as he addressed England players and officials at Downing Street to mark the launch of the RFU's Injured Players Foundation.

The Prime Minister, who lost an eye playing rugby when he was 16, said: "I believe that rugby is one of the great sports and I also believe we can win the Rugby World Cup (bid for) this country in 2015.

"I hope that you [the RFU] will be able to persuade other countries that the Rugby World Cup should come here.

"I am here to support people who were part of the 2007 World Cup team when you played South Africa (in the final), having already beaten France and Australia.

"I was very proud to be in Paris that day when you took on the South Africans and performed so well."

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