Organisers of the home Rugby World Cup in 2015 believe they are close to reaching agreement with Manchester City to play at least one game at the Etihad Stadium.
They are also confident of adding the Olympic Stadium in London to their list of venues. An announcement is expected within two weeks and if both deals are confirmed, it will ease the pain of losing Old Trafford, the so-called "Theatre of Dreams".
Manchester United are believed to have rejected an approach to stage three games because of fears over damage to the playing surface. Old Trafford was seen as a key plank in the World Cup stadium strategy, partly because of its status as one of football's greatest club grounds and partly because of its 76,000 capacity, which would have helped organisers meet an exceptionally demanding target of 2.9m ticket sales for 48 matches.
But local politicians and business leaders in Manchester are keen on bringing the World Cup to the city and even though the Etihad holds only 60,000 spectators, an agreement would allow the Rugby Football Union to deliver its promise to lay on a nationwide spectacle, rather than a London-centric one.
The Government looks set to turn down a request by the organisers to make ticket touting at the tournament illegal. Ministers are concerned that the demands it would put on the police do not justify a law being passed – and that it would open the floodgates to every other major sport and leisure event asking for similar treatment.Reuse content