IRB urged to hold 2007 event only in France

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The Independent Online

Leading rugby officials in Australia and England have advocated a review of the plan to stage some matches at the 2007 France World Cup in the Celtic countries.

The Australian Rugby Union chief executive, John O'Neill, the man responsible for the organisation of this year's event, said that his committee would be advising the International Rugby Board to change its original plan regarding the venues.

Under the deal agreed when France won the right to host the 2007 World Cup, some matches up to the quarter-final stage are set to be held in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin. The decision was seen in some quarters as payback for French support for the 1999 World Cup being hosted by Wales.

O'Neill said: "We will certainly be advising the IRB to shelve any plans to spread the tournament venues outside France.

"The message that has come through loud and clear from this World Cup is that it is far more successful if you hold the whole event in a single country. Having individual matches in different countries does not work.

"If the IRB have agreed that for 2007, we would suggest they would benefit hugely from changing it and keeping the entire tournament in France," he added. "It is a wonderful country with a deep rugby heritage and I am sure they will put on an outstanding World Cup.

O'Neill, who also revealed that Saturday's World Cup final produced receipts of Aus$31m (£13.6m), found support from the England assistant coach, Andy Robinson. "I think the IRB will look at it and may well change the original plans" Robinson said.

"Everyone has seen what a wonderful event it is in one country. The people really got behind this World Cup, but I don't think it would work as well if you have individual matches in Scotland, Ireland and Wales when it is supposed to be France's World Cup.

"The IRB, like everyone else, has learned a great deal from this event and I am sure those lessons will be taken on board and carefully considered in the months and years to come."