Rugby: 2027 World Cup bid a 'light on the hill' for Australia - Eales

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By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia winning the right to host the 2027 Rugby World Cup would be an important step in the rejuvenation of the sport in the country after a few lean years, former captain John Eales said at the launch of the bid on Thursday.

The goal-kicking lock forward played a part in both of Australia's World Cup triumphs, running out for his 10th test in the 1991 final at Twickenham and raising the Webb Ellis Cup as captain in Cardiff in 1999.

Australia reached the final again in 2015 but the years since have seen the Wallabies slump to seventh in the world with major financial woes compounding a sense of crisis in the game.

"There's no question Australia does a great job in running large, international events and the 2027 World Cup will be no different," Eales, a member of the bid advisory committee, told Reuters.

"It'd be huge to get the tournament here in 2027, ... not only do you have the wonderful eight-week window of the tournament itself but you have this great lead-in period ... and then you have the halo effect after the World Cup."

Eales said he had been impressed by the rebuilding work done since Hamish McLennan took over as Rugby Australia chairman last May as the game struggles for space in one of the world's most competitive sports markets.

"The bid is another important step in creating aspirational opportunity for young people," he added. "Having a light on the hill like the World Cup gives more young people a reason to say, 'that's a game I want to play.'"

With Argentina having withdrawn their bid for 2027 and Russia the only other country in the race, Australia appears to be in a strong position to win hosting rights.

Eales hopes the lure of playing rugby's showpiece event on home soil would also help stem the flow of Australian rugby talent heading abroad to take up lucrative contracts in Europe and Japan.

"It's a professional game and it's an international game ... but you'd like to think that when players decide to go overseas, they are thinking of what they're leaving behind," he said.

"If they have things to look forward to like the World Cup in France in '23, the British and Irish Lions in '25 and the Rugby World Cup in 2027, those decisions will just be a little bit harder to make."

Gary Ella, one of only 14 indigenous Australians to have worn the Wallabies shirt, thought the bid could be a game-changer in the fight to attract more Aboriginal youth to the 15-man code.

"I think it will be, and it's not just the 2027, it'll be the five years leading into it, the legacy programmes that we'll put into place," the former centre told Reuters.

"And whether we win the bid or don't win the bid, as long as we commence those programmes they'll continue on."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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