The four home nations are considering whether to launch a joint bid to host the 2031 Rugby World Cup, the Guardian can reveal. World Rugby officially opened the process on Monday for both the 2027 and 2031 tournaments and the four home unions are weighing up a bid for the latter in the UK and Ireland.
The Rugby Football Union has been considering a bid for a while but the prospect of joining forces Welsh, Scottish and Irish counterparts comes amid the financial backdrop of the pandemic. The benefits of hosting the tournament are obvious – the 2015 World Cup in England generated revenues of £228.1m but World Rugby requires significant financial guarantee from the hosts.
When France bid for the 2023 tournament their guarantee was £150m, which was underwritten by the government, and the ability to share those costs would be an obvious benefit to a potential joint bid. Significantly, World Rugby said on Monday when beginning the process that “multi-nation bids are being welcomed”. There has not been an officially shared host of the tournament in the professional era, however, when Wales was the principal host in 1999, matches were staged across the home nations and in France.
An RFU spokesperson told the Guardian: “The four rugby unions of the UK and Ireland are considering the merits of a joint bid to host the  Rugby World Cup. Collective discussions with government partners across the UK and Ireland have not yet taken place and a decision on whether to bid has not yet been made.”
World Rugby has overhauled its bidding process after the embarrassment suffered when South Africa was recommended for the 2023 World Cup, only for France to prevail in a secret ballot. Ireland were also in the running and were frustrated with Scotland for not providing their support but it seems the two unions have made up to the extent that they are willing to discuss a shared bid.
The four home nations may even get something of a trial run in hosting a major event this summer should the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa be moved to the UK and Ireland. The USA is expected to bid for the 2031 tournament while Australia are favourites to host the 2027 edition.
The first step of the bidding process has been described by World Rugby as the “dialogue phase” for communication between unions and governments before interest parties formalise their bids and submit “candidate files” with agreements and guarantees next January. From February 2022 the bids will be evaluated against criteria agreed by World Rugby’s council, who will then select the winners by vote in May next year.