Gordon Brown's so-called "golden decade of sport" received another precious entry in its diary yesterday when England were named as the host country of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. In welcoming the news of the announcement in Dublin, the Rugby Football Union said the tournament would be "immense for participation in England", while the International Rugby Board will be praying it will prove just as immense for their finances.
How the Prime Minister will wish that all of his grand statements were so prescient. Two years ago he spoke of the four major sporting events which could follow in the wake of the 2012 London Olympics, and so far he has a fairly untypical three-out-of-three strike rate.
Yesterday, it was also announced that the 2013 Rugby League World Cup would take place in Britain, while last year Glasgow was named as host city of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Brown's four-timer will come in if the Football Association's bid for the 2018 World Cup is successful, although whether he will be in office to hear Fifa's decision in 18 months' time must be open to some doubt.
All of which would not have concerned the RFU or the IRB. There were concerns the Rugby World Cup's recommendation for England to be awarded 2015 and Japan 2019 would not be rubber-stamped by the 26-strong council. But in the end the fears proved unfounded with the motion being carried 16-10, leaving South Africa and Italy as the losing nations.
While the list of, as the RFU chairman Martyn Thomas called them, "iconic venues" (mainly football stadiums) were impressive, what truly won the vote were the finances. The IRB's coffers are set to be dramatically depleted by the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand – which is being predicted to leave a £20m-£30m deficit – and the need for a highly profitable tournament is paramount.
England 2015 is projected to earn the IRB £220m in broadcasting, sponsorship, hospitality and merchandising revenues, which was 20 per cent higher than any other bidder. That commercial strength would also help the IRB bolster revenues from 2011 by tying TV rights for both tournaments into one package. Little wonder Bernard Lapasset, the IRB chairman, looked so thankful for the avoidance of any notable anarchy yesterday.
As, indeed, did Thomas, even confessing to "relief" at landing the event for the first time since 1991. With the RFU set to rake in £80m-plus, and with business advisory firm Deloitte estimating the British economy would gain £2.1bn, this was a time to rub hands as well as issue a few rich promises.
"We have made a commitment to host the most successful tournament ever," said Francis Baron, the RFU's chief executive. Earlier, Thomas alluded to the youngsters who would be inspired to take up rugby and the projections are indeed staggering, with anything up to a 25 per cent increase.
Yet there is still one wrinkle to be ironed out. England's plan to use the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff must still be ratified – and that may not happen until next March. However, the Welsh Rugby Union is not unduly concerned and, together with most of the council members, sent its congratulations to Twickenham. That number even included the Scots, who were aggrieved at being knocked back by the RFU to stage their own pool stages, but who apparently came around.
On days such as this there is always at least one country left aggrieved and South Africa went away harbouring a goalposts-being-moved resentment. Initially, the IRB asked for a $80m bond to be guaranteed by the bidders' governments and while South Africa were able to secure a £130m commitment, England's was only a paltry £25m.
There is some sympathy for their claims that the IRB's new tender process favoured the English financial behemoth. But the Springbok hurt was in direct contrast to the Japanese joy. One of the main reasons why the IRB chose to name two host venues at once yesterday was to avoid the "old boy network" accusations which greeted the controversial decision to ignore the claims of Japan four years ago.
"The God of rugby smiled on us today," said their union's president Yoshiro Mori.
World at their feet: Five on course to shine in 2015
Danny Cipriani (England. Age in 2015: 27)
The Rugby World Cup will need an English poster boy and Cipriani happens to look quite good on a poster. The question is, will he ever seem so comfortable on a rugby pitch? The likelihood is that the headline-grabbing Wasp will finally fulfil his destiny as the heir to Jonny Wilkinson. Yesterday's announcement should be all the incentive he needs.
James O'Connor (Australia, 25)
Considered by many to be the new Tim Horan, the centre who was named player of the 1999 tournament, the last time the Rugby World Cup was held in Britain. The utility back has only just turned 19, but has already been capped three times by the Wallabies. On his first international start last month, O'Connor scored three tries against Italy.
Dewald Potgieter (South Africa, 28)
The blond bomber at the base of the Bulls scrum has future Springbok captain written all over his powerful frame. He has already enjoyed the glories of leadership when guiding the Emerging Springboks to their last-gasp 16-16 draw against the Lions in Cape Town last month. The mop makes this explosive back-rower seem even more of an all-action hero.
Aaron Cruden (New Zealand, 26)
Named as the junior world player of the year last month and the England Under-20 side will testify why. In the recent World Cup final in Tokyo, the All Blacks fly-half scored two tries and made another three. Cruden, who last year overcame testicular cancer, has the vision and creativity of Dan Carter. By 2015, he should also have his All Blacks shirt.
Leigh Halfpenny (Wales, 26)
It is hard to believe that the Blues wing is still only 20, having already won six caps for Wales and been selected for a Lions squad. He has everything it takes to emerge as one of the world's best backs. Superb in both attack and defence, he rarely seems to make a mistake. If Wales haven't made him First Minister by then, 2015 could be his peak.
Game on: Venues and key dates for 2015
Fourteen venues across 12 cities will host games in the 2015 World Cup:
Twickenham (London, 82,000), Wembley (London, 90,000), Emirates (London, 60,432), St Mary's (Southampton, 32,689), Kingsholm (Gloucester, 18,000), Welford Road (Leicester, 20,000), Ricoh Arena (Coventry, 32,500), Elland Road (Leeds, 40,204), Anfield (Liverpool, 45,000), Old Trafford (Manchester, 76,100), St James' Park (Newcastle, 52,387), Millennium Stadium (Cardiff, 73,350)
The 2015 World Cup is the latest addition to what is becoming a 'golden decade' of sport in Britain:
2010 Ryder Cup (Celtic Manor)
2011 Champions League final (Wembley)
2012 Olympic Games (London)
2013 Rugby League World Cup
2014 Ryder Cup (Gleneagles), Commonwealth Games (Glasgow)
2015 Rugby Union World Cup
2018 Football World Cup (tbc)
2019 Cricket World CupReuse content