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USA Rugby announces steps towards World Cup bid, backed by MLR owners | Sport



USA Rugby will explore a bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2027 or 2031, an effort backed by a “focused group of stakeholders” that includes interests from Major League Rugby, the US professional competition which completed two seasons before its third fell victim to Covid-19.

As well as the men’s event, generally considered the third-biggest global sporting event after the football World Cup and the Olympic Games, USA Rugby will consider bidding to host the women’s tournament in 2025 or 2029.

Ryan Patterson, a co-owner of the San Diego Legion in MLR, told the Guardian: “From work to date, we’d expect a Rugby World Cup in North America to be the most-attended, commercially successful in history, introducing millions of new players and fans to the game.”

He also said MLR interests were “excited to partner with USA Rugby” to bring the World Cup to “North America in 2027”.

USA Rugby has emerged from bankruptcy proceedings after, among other factors, the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in 2018 produced a significant loss.

“While preliminary, a study of this nature will be very insightful and ensure appropriate due diligence is performed at every stage of the process,” USA Rugby chief executive Ross Young, formerly general manager for three men’s World Cups, said in a statement.

“This group of stakeholders have the best interest of the American game in mind and this report will offer the opportunity for more productive discussions with World Rugby at the beginning of next year, prior to any decision to continue the bid process.”

In a release, USA Rugby said the study would “focus on objective analysis, financial considerations, technical requirements and stakeholder support across the greater sports landscape. Similar to previous Rugby World Cup host unions, objective analysis will include legacy of the tournament and positive impact for the game of rugby in the United States.”

France will host the tournament in 2023. World Rugby has announced a single bidding process for the next two events, with a deadline in January 2022. Australia is favourite to host in 2027. Russia has announced a bid backed by Vladimir Putin.

The bidding process will include a “dialogue phase”, in February 2021, which USA Rugby described as “an opportunity for open communication between World Rugby, unions, governments and other key stakeholders in order to understand the business and delivery model, how each will partner with World Rugby and ultimately build a compelling bid proposal”.

The US will host the 2026 football World Cup, with Canada and Mexico, and the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028. As World Rugby looks to repeat the success of Japan 2019, a tournament held in a tier-two rugby nation, many observers see the US as a possible host for 2031.

Many also see it as an untapped market crucial for success in a post-pandemic world. But in the American game, the last two years have been tempestuous.

MLR ended its third season after just five rounds, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and amid rumours of financial problems. The Colorado Raptors, a foundation team, have withdrawn. A project in Hawaii backed by a group of ex-All Blacks will not play in 2021 as planned. Missing a payment deadline, the Hawaii operation questioned the league’s financial health and ability to survive Covid-19.

Nonetheless, MLR interests have formed Rugby Growth Investments (RGI), which according to a foundational document obtained by the Guardian is seeking investors as it looks to “access, influence and accelerate” North American rugby, with the aim of hosting the World Cup by 2031.

Touting “globally connected, well-capitalised, active rugby investors and advisers”, the document lists Stirling Mortlock, a back who captained Australia and played 80 Tests from 2000 to 2009, as a source for further information.

Stirling Mortlock in action, against Scotland in Brisbane during the 2003 World Cup.

Stirling Mortlock in action, against Scotland in Brisbane during the 2003 World Cup. Photograph: Rob Griffith/AP

Mortlock did not reply to an email seeking comment but Patterson said: “San Diego Legion and other MLR owners created Rugby Growth Investments to fund opportunities at all levels of the North American rugby ecosystem. Partnering with USA Rugby to finance a RWC bid for 2027 would be transformational event that would fast-track game-wide growth.”

The RGI document identifies challenges which face anyone looking to invest in US rugby, where specialised facilities are few and crowds and TV audiences low in world terms.

“North American Rugby is highly fragmented,” it says. “It lacks an effective and sustainable rugby ecosystem. It needs capital, expertise, centralised platforms and opportunities for competition.”

RGI says it can be “a strategic capital partner” for MLR, USA Rugby and World Rugby, in order to “fast-track community, commercial & high-performance systems in preparation for a RWC” in “North America [in] 2027 or 2031”.

The document also says RGI aims to “drive value in MLR” and “build a ‘World Cup ready’ rugby ecosystem”.

Patterson said: “Other RGI investments in Major League Rugby and central platforms and services aim to connect the rugby community, engage fans and develop youth pathways, club and collegiate players and aspiring coaches.”

Jim Brown, a member of the USA Rugby board who has advised major events including Olympic Games and football World Cups, will steer the feasibility study.

In a statement to the Guardian, he said: “There are a number of involved stakeholders with vested interest in the domestic game, which includes parties within MLR.

“The opportunity of hosting the biggest event in our sport and all it brings with it would of course be a driving force for the league, so their active participation and support during the preliminary stages is crucial.”

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7s World Cup

Black Ferns star Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate’s mother’s ‘death stares’ helped inspire fearsome haka



As a young girl, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate became far more fearful of her mother’s “death stares” if she didn’t get up and lead a Waiata or Pōwhiri than performing the rituals in front of crowds.

So when she was asked to lead the Black Ferns haka for the first time in 2014 – the same year as her international debut – it was a natural move following her upbringing immersed in Māori culture.

The only intimidation factor in Ngata-Aerengamate stepping up to lead the haka being for her opponents.

Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate takes great pride in leading the Black Ferns haka.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate takes great pride in leading the Black Ferns haka.

“When I got to lead the haka for the first time they asked me ‘how does it feel to lead the haka?'”

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Being so inexperienced on the international rugby stage, her answer may have surprised her Black Ferns teammates.

“It’s easy-peasy,” Ngata-Aerengamate told Sky Sport’s vodcast.

Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate celebrates the Black Ferns victory over England in the 2017 Rugby World Cup final.

David Rogers/Getty Images

Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate celebrates the Black Ferns victory over England in the 2017 Rugby World Cup final.

“It’s been instilled in my life ever since I was a baby.

“If I didn’t get up and do the Pōwhiri and sing a Waiata or lead the Waiata my mum would be death stares,” Ngata-Aerengamate quipped.

“I had to do it so when I got asked that question can I do it [haka], I could already see my mum in the stands looking at me like ‘get up’ so it was just breakfast, lunch and dinner for me.

“No nerves at all,” Ngata-Aerengamate said.

Ngata-Aerengamate of Ngāti Porou, was a Rugby World Cup winner in 2017 but her career hasn’t always been plain sailing.

A lack of opportunities forced her into playing against the boys between the ages of five and 15 and then she struggled for game time at the Auckland Storm.

Her resilience paid off when she made a move to Counties and earned her Black Ferns selection for the first time a year later in 2014.

She was a standout in Counties’ 2016 Farah Palmer Cup triumph but the hooker struggled to earn quality minutes on the international stage when stuck behind then Black Ferns captain Fiao’o Faamausili.

Since Faamausili’s retirement, Ngata-Aerengamate has stamped her authority on the hooker’s jersey and established herself as one of the most crucial cogs in the Black Ferns pack.

The 29-year-old has so far represented the Black Ferns on 30 occasions with many more appearances to come.

A powerful ball carrier and robust defender, Ngata-Aerengamate was the Blues hooker in the history-making inaugural women’s Super Rugby Clash against the Chiefs earlier this month.

But the school teacher at Kaitaia College has talents that run far deeper than the rugby field.

Fluent in te reo Māori, Ngata-Aerengamate is more than handy on the guitar and has often been described as the songbird of the Black Ferns.

Since Northland’s arrival into the Farah Palmer Cup in 2019, Ngata-Aerengamate has moved from Counties to captain her home province.

Watch the full episode of Te Kura Ngata Aerengamate’s Sky Sport vodcast here.

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7s World Cup

Rugby Union: Wildfires get chance to push Wallaroos claims | Newcastle Herald



sport, local-sport, Hunter Wildfires, wallaroos

HUNTER Wildfires assistant coach Matthew Johnston spends his working days watching talented players in his role as a game analyst for World Rugby. Johnston mainly focuses on sevens tournaments and referees, but he knows what makes a quality player. And with Rugby Australia on Tuesday confirming the Wallaroos will play two tests against Samoa in July, he believes a couple of Wildfires can push their claims in the next few weeks. “Newcastle has gone very well in the AON Seven series which has its final round this weekend,” Johnston said.”There are also multiple girls in Super W squads. The region has a rich history of Wallaroos. “Ash Walker is in a broader Wallaroos squad and Kaitlan Leaney would be a roughy. As a second-rower she has tremendous skills, a good frame and is a powerful ball carrier. She is someone who could force her way in, especially with the World Cup being pushed back until October next year. It means more girls can push their claims.” READ MORE: LIFE-LONG BOND LANDS FLY-HALF AT HAWKS Walker and Leaney are among seven Wildfires at the Gold Coast this weekend with the Newcastle University AON Sevens side and will miss the Jack Scott Cup clash against Western Sydney at Holroyd Sports Ground. The Wildfires are coming off a resounding 55-14 win over Gordon, which followed a 12-all draw with Warringah. “We are fortunate that there are only three changes to thee starting team,” Johnston said. “It should be a chance to keep our momentum going. We will look to move the ball around again. “Traditionally, the Two Blues are a big side. We were happy with the way we kept the ball alive and moved it around against Gordon.” IN NEWS TODAY: Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:


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7s World Cup

Black Ferns gain new perspective on haka as Rugby World Cup comes into focus



If opposing teams want to get a sense of what it’s like to face the Black Ferns when they arrive in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup next year, they can now pay a visit to Federal St in downtown Auckland.

A recording of the national women’s rugby team performing their haka, Ko Ūhia Mai, made at Eden Park in 2019, is now on display on a four-metre high screen, as part of the All Blacks Experience, which opened last December.

The addition of the Black Ferns’ haka was formally launched on Wednesday, with several players present, including veteran hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, who said the experience of facing it rather than leading it was “definitely different”.

Black Fern Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate performs the haka during their match against the New Zealand Barbarians last year.

Evan Barnes/Getty Images

Black Fern Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate performs the haka during their match against the New Zealand Barbarians last year.

“Now I know what it feels like to be facing the haka, just like every other team that plays against the Black Ferns, and it’s definitely not a good sight, not being in that team.”

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Ko Ūhia Mai’was gifted to the Black Ferns by Whetu Tipiwai, who was the kaumātua of the Māori All Blacks for a decade from 2001 to 2010, as well as a member of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board for 15 years, but died in 2015.

His widow Heneriata Tipiwai was present at the launch and joined the Black Ferns as they lined up to view the haka.

“We never met him,” Ngata-Aerengamate said of Whetu.

“I’ve always wanted to, but he passed away, so to have his wife here and to see the emotion in her eyes, that we performed something of her husband’s – I’m sure we’ve made him proud.”

The Black Ferns’ preparations for their defence of their World Cup title were given a boost on Wednesday, with confirmation of the dates for the tournament, which was postponed to 2022 earlier this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was originally scheduled to run from September 18 to October 16 this year, but will now begin on October 8 next year and conclude with the final on November 12 at Eden Park.

An extended Black Ferns squad have a camp this week and coach Glenn Moore was excited about the battle for spots that is set to play out over the next year or so.

“We’ve got a lot of young players that we’ve introduced over the last two years, and it’s certainly going to give them more time and more experience prior to getting to the World Cup, which will be beneficial,” he said of the delay.

“I don’t mind saying we’ve got a lot of competition in this group for spots. We’ve been working throughout the year with camps with up to 45, 46 players there, and you can see that competition building up.”

Moore said NZ Rugby was “making good progress” with regard to securing fixtures later this year for the Black Ferns, who last played a test on August 17, 2019, against Australia’s Wallaroos.

“We’ve certainly got more confidence now that we’ll play test matches in the latter part of the year and some of those, we are confident, will be against tier-one nations.

“That’s really important for how we’re trying to build and progress towards the World Cup next year. We need that level of competition.”

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