The Olympic Stadium in London and 12 club football grounds were included Monday on the long list of 17 venues put forward to host matches in the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
Organizers will confirm the final list of 10-12 venues early next year, after the tournament schedule has been decided. The pool draw is being held on December 3 in London.
English organizers have to sell 2.9 million tickets to cover the 80 million pound ($130 million) guarantee owed to the International Rugby Board, and have therefore selected stadiums with large capacities to stage the 48 matches.
Old Trafford (Manchester United), St. James’ Park (Newcastle), Villa Park (Aston Villa), St. Mary’s Stadium (Southampton) and the Stadium of Light (Sunderland) are the Premier League grounds under consideration, joining Wembley Stadium and international rugby grounds Twickenham and Millennium Stadium on the list.
“We are very fortunate that England possesses some of the finest sporting venues in the world,” IRB president Bernard Lapasset said. “We are sure that this selection of sporting venues will capture the imagination of rugby and sport fans, not just in England but all over the world.”
There are still uncertainties regarding who the tenants of the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium will be after the London Games, with Premier League club West Ham one of four bidders.
The arena wasn’t in the original bid document but has replaced Emirates Stadium, Arsenal’s ground, on the long list.
Welford Road is the biggest club rugby ground in England, with a capacity of 24,000, and the home of the top team in the country over the past decade. Die-hard rugby fans disappointed with the lack of representation in the traditional rugby strongholds may be assuaged by the fact that Leicester and Bath have still made the list, albeit through football stadiums in those cities.
“Our vision for Rugby World Cup 2015 is to ensure that we take this prestigious tournament to as many parts of the country as possible and we believe that the geographical spread of venues selected will enable us to maximise the reach of the tournament,” said Andy Cosslett, chairman of the organizing committee.
“In addition, we will be selecting further venues for training and team base camps that will ensure that the rugby community is at the very heart of Rugby World Cup 2015.”