WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The experience of hosting the men’s 2011 Rugby World Cup has indicated the wholehearted support New Zealand would give to a potential women’s tournament in 2021, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said.
New Zealand were one of six countries confirmed by World Rugby on Wednesday as having expressed an interest to bid for the rights to hold the 2021 women’s tournament.
Australia, France, England, Portugal and Wales were the other confirmed bidders, with final documents due by Aug. 10 and a decision made by World Rugby’s Council on Nov. 14.
Organisers marketed the 2011 men’s Rugby World Cup as being played in a “Stadium of Four Million”, with the majority of the games sold out, while communities up and down rugby-mad New Zealand embraced teams based in their regions.
Hansen said World Rugby could leverage that type of support to grow the women’s game globally.
“What you’re committing to, I think, if you say ‘look we want to host it’ is that you’re going to provide stadia that are world class and you’re going to provide an environment where the tournament’s going to get thoroughly supported by people coming out and watching it,” Hansen told reporters in Wellington on Thursday.
“I think the New Zealand public would really buy into it and it could give the women’s game a real shake along and that would be good.”
New Zealand won their fifth women’s Rugby World Cup title last year in Ireland, capping a tournament the global body said had been “the best-attended, most-viewed and most socially-engaged ever”. The final between New Zealand and England was also broadcast live in primetime in Europe.
The Black Ferns’ style of victory and quality of play was also seen as a catalyst for New Zealand Rugby endeavouring to reduce the gender gap between the men’s and women’s sides of the sport.
NZR introduced their first retainer contracts for women’s 15s players earlier this year and Hansen said a potential World Cup on home soil would be a just reward for their efforts.
“The Black Ferns don’t get that great an opportunity to play at home in front of big crowds and (against) a lot of different opposition,” he added.
“The women’s team have been great ambassadors for our game. They’re leading the way in their sport and they’re challenging all of us to look at it differently.
“I think it would be great.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty