It's a straight shoot-out between New Zealand and Australia to host the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup, with World Rugby confirming that they are the final bidders. It means the World Cup will be held in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time ever.
The 2021 tournament will be the first to feature exciting new format changes, including the extension of the tournament window from 23 to 35 days , the addition of a quarter-final stage and squad increases from 28 to 30 players, reflecting World Rugby’s commitment to accelerating the development of the women’s game.
Within their submissions, the unions were required to outline their vision and mission for hosting the showcase event, reflecting World Rugby’s eight hosting objectives, which are:
-The vision for the tournament and how candidates will build on the success of WRWC 2017
-A financial model that will support the delivery of a successful tournament
-Strong commercial capability
-Venues and infrastructure in line with requirements
-Full and vibrant venues and a strong fan-base
-Player welfare considered across all the functional areas
-A clear Impact Beyond legacy programme that supports the development of the women’s game
-A strong marketing and communications policy to promote fan awareness and ticket sales
New Zealand’s bid names Auckland and Whangarei as host cities. Under the plan matches would be played at Albany Stadium, Waitakere Stadium and Northland Events Centre, with Eden Park also available.
The New Zealand Government has supported the bid, with backing from MBIE, Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and Whangarei District Council, while even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed her support.
The NZR said they are also exploring the option to host a Pacific Island women’s rugby tournament alongside the WRWC2021.
Australia meanwhile have also launched ambitious plans naming the Newcastle and Hunter region as the host area. Matches would be played at Maitland No. 1 Sportsground and Newcastle Sportsground No 2 with the Finals to be held at McDonald Jones Stadium, which holds 33,000 fans.
Teams, officials and tournament staff will be accommodated in an “Athletes Village” style camp.
The Australian bid is also supported by government.
France and Portugal's plans for a joint bid fell away in the end, while England and Wales were initially interested but decided against proceeding.
The bids will now undergo a detailed evaluation against the above criteria, before the World Rugby Council votes to select the next host of the showcase event at its interim meeting in Dublin on 14 November.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: "We are delighted that Australia and New Zealand – two trailblazers in women’s rugby and women’s sport in general – are committed to hosting a fantastic Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021.
"It is particularly exciting that both bids have strong government financial backing, which underscores the importance and attractiveness of Women’s Rugby World Cup as a sporting, societal, economic and legacy driver. This excellent support reflects the significant global excitement and momentum behind women’s rugby and women in rugby.
"Ireland 2017 was a magnificent tournament by any Rugby World Cup standards and I am sure that both unions will be determined to raise the bar again as we look forward to a tournament that features an exciting new format."