Australian rugby boss Bill Pulver has indicated the ARU could bid if cost-cutting Japan should lose the hosting rights for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Pulver admits cash-strapped Australia is desperate to host another World Cup but South Africa is probably ahead in the southern hemisphere pecking order, having waited longer since it hosted in 1995.
The ARU CEO stressed he believed Japan would sort out its current problems with the world body and remain the 2019 host.
But he also suggested tactical backing for a successful South Africa bid, if 2019 became available, would bring Australia’s next chance closer than 2031, the current next likely opportunity.
And if South Africa wasn’t interested?
“Then, I think we’d have a real crack,” Pulver told reporters on Thursday at a lunch to farewell the Wallabies to the 2015 World Cup in Britain.
The issue has arisen after World Rugby gave Japan until the end of September to come up with a “revised detailed host venue proposal” after it removed a new national stadium from its venue line-up amid huge cost overruns.
World Rugby also called for a “formal reassurance” on venues and budgets for the 2019 showcase event.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shocked the governing body last month when he scrapped plans for the national stadium for the 2020 Olympics. The stadium had been scheduled to host Rugby World Cup matches including the final.
Abe said the $US2 billion cost of the stadium was too high and a new design should be found. But any new stadium will not be ready for 2019.
The scenario has slight echoes of the 2003 World Cup, when New Zealand was stripped of co-hosting rights and Australia took it over completely and achieved a financial windfall after the Kiwis dithered over delivering “clean” stadiums, without existing advertising, as required.
However neither World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset nor Pulver believed it had reached that stage.
“I hope sincerely that Japan doesn’t fall over and I doubt if they will fall over,” said Pulver.
“We did not bid for the 2019 World Cup. We desperately want another World Cup as quickly as we can.
“Tactically we’d have to establish whether it made sense for us if it was opened up to go in or whether it made sense to clear out one of the countries that would most likely be in the pathway before us.
“Obviously, our southern hemisphere friends in South Africa are desperate for a second World Cup given that would even it out.
“So we’d have to work out whether we’d just get in behind them and support them. To be honest, I suspect we would.”
Asked about Australia’s current prospects, Pulver said: “Realistically, the earliest we can consider (hosting) is 31 (2031) … that may or may not be right.
“If Japan was to fall over, maybe we could bring it forward, but I’m not sure we’d be in line to do 19, we’d probably support South Africa.”
“I think we’d be a bit of a long putt to win 19, if it came up… By the way …I don’t think it will come up.
“I’m pretty sure Japan will deal with what the issues are.”