New Zealand were last night celebrating after winning a tense vote for the right to stage the 2011 Rugby World Cup, just three years after dropping out as secondary hosts to Australia ahead of the 2003 event.
Jock Hobbs, the chairman of the NZRFU admitted during his victory speech that this was probably their last shot at trying to host the lucrative tournament, which is expected to produce a surplus in excess of £100m.
"We didn't mention it today, but we were concerned that if the tournament continues to grow at the pace it is, it could well get beyond New Zealand post the 2011 Rugby World Cup," said Hobbs, a former All Black captain and back-row forward.
Hobbs said that winning the bid would be good not just for New Zealand but also for the Pacific Island nations, whose players have played an increasingly important role in the supremacy of the All Blacks - captain Tana Umaga is of Samoan origin; high-scoring winger Joe Rokocoko was born in Fiji. "It is going to be in their backyard. It will be a World Cup on their behalf and can only benefit them," Hobbs added.
The casting of the votes was a closely-guarded secret, with the International Board refusing to divulge how it went at each stage. Dr Syd Millar, the chairman of the IRB, said: "The secret ballot is there so people do not feel under any pressure."
But defeat for New Zealand's rivals left a bitter taste. South Africa provided the first shock of the day when they lost out in the first round of voting. The delegation was led by the former World Cup winning captain, Francois Pienaar, who said: "The Rugby World Cup needs big crowds in big stadia and should be played in good weather and we could provide all three. It is an opportunity missed."
The Japanese had stronger words. "Our tender was much better than those of the other two," said Yoshiro Mori, president of the Japanese RFU, and the former prime minister of Japan. "Everybody thought it would be of great value to the game to stage the Rugby World Cup in Asia. We had public support and there is a feeling that the game needs to be globalised.
"It looks as if this was a sympathy vote for New Zealand because they couldn't stage the World Cup in 2003. Maybe it was the old boys network of the IRB at work."
Pienaar admitted South Africa had transferred its vote to New Zealand, and David Pickering, the chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, said: "There was a lot of sympathy for New Zealand losing out in 2003. But I hope Japan will come back and bid for a future tournament."
Amid all the fuss over the next world cup, Australia, the beaten finalists in 2003, announced what they hope will be the team to end a run of seven consecutive Test defeats when they take on Ireland tomorrow.
Eddie Jones, the Wallabies' head coach feels he has isolated one of the chief problems in the front row. "We had a good training session today on our scrummaging, probably the best so far," said Jones, who has named David Fitter at tight-head prop.
The 28-year-old Fitter has just 180 minutes of competitive rugby under his belt in the past five years. But the former ACT Brumbies player showed no lack of confidence. "I have made sure that I have kept on improving even though I have not been playing that much. I am certainly not worried about any of the technical issues scrummaging."
Injury has forced Jones to bring in Greg Holmes at loose-head in place of Matt Dunning, who has a problem with his neck. But those are the only two changes from the team which lost to England last weekend.
AUSTRALIA (v Ireland, Dublin, tomorrow)
15 C Latham (Queensland)
14 M Gerrard (ACT)
13 L Tuqiri (NSW)
12 M Turinui (NSW)
11 D Mitchell (Queensland)
10 M Rogers (NSW)
9 G Gregan (ACT, capt)
1 G Holmes (Queensland)
2 B Cannon (West Australia)
3 D Fitter (WA)
4 H McMeniman (Queensland)
5 N Sharpe (WA)
6 J Roe (Queensland)
7 P Waugh (NSW)
8 G Smith (ACT)
Replacements: T Polota-Nau (NSW), A Baxter (NSW), M Chisholm (ACT), S Fava (WA), M Henjak (WA), L Johannson (Queensland), W Sailor (NSW).Reuse content