English rugby may or may not be absolutely confident of hitting its ultra-ambitious targets in respect of the 2015 World Cup: three million ticket sales and £2bn worth of business, the figures mentioned by Twickenham's top brass in support of their successful bid for the tournament, are mighty big hostages to fortune in this age of credit crunches and economic downturns. Unfortunately for those hoping for a little elbow room, the latest financial projection from New Zealand, hosts of the 2011 competition, means the pressure to succeed will become more intense rather than less.
Martin Snedden, the one-time Test cricketer in charge of the All Black nation's World Cup preparations, admitted yesterday that the difficult financial climate was biting hard. Already budgeting for a loss of almost £13m, Snedden admitted his sums were under "a wee bit of pressure" and confessed: "We're taking a step into the unknown. The Lions tour here in 2005 was New Zealand's highest grossing event at £13.5m. For the World Cup, we're trying to do £118m. That's a huge difference and there has to be a degree of uncertainty. In the end, we won't know the answers until we go live."
Ticket prices are likely to be pitched at the levels seen at the 2007 tournament in France and therefore exceptionally expensive by New Zealand standards. Two years ago, the average cost for a quarter-final seat was £147, with the semi-finals priced at £100 more and tickets for the final costing the best part of £350. "People will have to take a bit of a deep breath," Snedden admitted.
The International Rugby Board, which owns the tournament through Rugby World Cup Ltd and has built it into the third largest sporting event behind the football World Cup and the Olympics, was criticised fiercely for supporting New Zealand's candidacy over that of Japan, where far greater riches would have been guaranteed. Even though Eden Park in Auckland is being redeveloped into a stadium worthy of hosting a World Cup final, work on a new venue in Dunedin has yet to begin – trusty old Carisbrook, ramshackle as the day is long, will be dusted down if necessary – and there are serious concerns over the shortage of hotel accommodation in the country.
For all that, the IRB chief executive Mike Miller believes New Zealand will produce a successful competition, although he admitted that a major British television deal had yet to be nailed down. "That deal is obviously a big one and how that goes will be crucial to the amount of money we'll have to invest in the game," he said. "But money isn't the be-all and end-all. This is a rugby-mad country and it deserves a World Cup. It will be a great showcase for the game."
At Premiership level, Worcester expect their outstanding player, the All Black centre Sam Tuitupou, to be available for tomorrow night's home game with Leeds at Sixways. Tuitupou, who arrived in the West Midlands a couple of seasons ago, has not played a league fixture since injuring his knee last year and has recently been struggling with hamstring problems.
Bath, on the other hand, have doubts over the full-back Nick Abendanon and the prop David Wilson ahead of Saturday's meeting with Wasps at the Recreation Ground.Reuse content