It's Game On: 1991 World Cup winners recognise the magic of the 'greatest show on turf'

Sat, 17/07/2021, 01:21 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
John Eales is amongst a host of former Wallabies throwing their support behind the RWC 2027 bid. Photo: Getty Images

The victorious 1991 Wallabies were the first to truly understand the reach of the Rugby World Cup which is one reason why the 2027 bid has the passionate backing of those trailblazers.

It was one thing for 1991’s heroes to appreciate the magnitude of winning the Webb Ellis Cup at Twickenham amid 56,000 noisy fans at one of the cathedrals of rugby.

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It was another thing to be transported half a world away back to Sydney to sit in an open-topped car before the start of a parade through the city’s streets.

More than two weeks had elapsed since the final. It wasn’t with false modesty that the young John Eales, Phil Kearns and others in the squad really wondered if enough well-wishers would turn out to constitute a parade.

It was the day of the old-fashioned fax. They’d received so many from all corners of Australia in the lead-up to beating England in the final that they’d plastered the walls of their team room with them.

It truly seemed like the whole of the nation was behind them, not just supporters from the rugby strongholds of Sydney and Brisbane.

This was a different litmus test altogether of rugby’s sudden popularity spike in that era. The players, in blazers and ties, did not have to wait long to find out as their chauffeured vehicles got moving.

“Thousands turned out. It was amazing. Ticker-tape did tumble from the windows and we couldn’t believe the support,” Simon Poidevin recalled.

Added Eales: “There was that moment before the parade. No one had been involved in anything like it before so you wondered how many people would actually turn out.”

Former Wallabies John Eales and Dan Herbert and Wallabies coach Dave Rennie speak about the opportunity presented by Australia's Bid to host Rugby World Cup 2027.

Poidevin, the decorated Wallabies flanker in that 1991 triumph, elaborated in his book, For Love Not Money.

“George Street was chock-a-block with people … office workers, pensioners wanting to kiss your cheek, young kids wanting to shake your hand and a smattering of migrants whose backgrounds were obviously far removed from the game of rugby,” Poidevin wrote.

“It was wholehearted support and happiness. They all just wanted to help celebrate the greatest team achievement ever by Australia in a truly international sport and be part of rugby’s finest hour in this country.”

Poidevin caught the magic of the World Cup perfectly. The tournament has the power to capture not just the diehards but ignite a pulse of excitement through the wider community.

Two-time World Cup winner Eales agrees when saying that Australia securing hosting rights for Rugby World Cup 2027 would super-charge the code.

“If the bid is successful, there will be a glow around everything to do with rugby,” he said.

“The legacy of the 2027 World Cup doesn’t start in 2027. It starts now with young people getting excited about the bid and grassroots amateur clubs working out how to be involved in rugby’s biggest event.

“Australia has a lot of wonderful sports and sports people which means rugby being a truly global game can sometimes be forgotten.

“Hosting a World Cup reminds everyone this is a game on a world stage and it offers world opportunities. It makes people proud about the sport of rugby.”

Game On for Australia's Bid to host Rugby World Cup 2027.

Attracting more than 200,000 tourists to Australia and selling more than two million tickets to the third biggest sporting event on the planet is only the end result of an economic benefit that would be measured in billions across several years.

Eales believes “the celebration of the game has to be amateur and professional rugby hand-in-hand showcasing Australian rugby and a brilliant tournament to the world.

“If you have 20 nations coming to Australia, all those teams need training bases,” Eales said.

Between 40-55 team bases will be needed across the seven-week tournament.

“Kids just getting the chance to watch training can make them a part of the World Cup,” he added.

“That was my first connection.

“I was in Year 12 and skipped a class to watch the England team training during the 1987 World Cup on my school oval (at Brisbane’s Marist College Ashgrove). It was pretty inspirational for a kid.”

Since Australia’s Rugby World Cup 2027 bid launch in May, the United States has also officially put up a hand as a contender for Rugby World Cup 2027 and 2031, along with the women’s Rugby World Cup in 2029. A final vote is slated for May next year after an evaluation phase to judge final bid submissions.

“I know Australia is very capable of not only hosting another Rugby World Cup but has successfully hosted a lot of international sports events,” Eales said.

“That has bred an industry of events-related people and innovators.”

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The new world-class stadiums available in 2027 compared to the 2003 hosting in Australia is marked and can lift total attendance to well over two million.

As executive director Rugby World Cup 2027 Bid, former Wallabies skipper Kearns is hands-on to maximise the positive benefits within a winning bid presentation.

“Hosting in 2027 would be a transformational moment for the game in this country but also the Pacific with our legacy projects,” Kearns said.

BREAKOUT BOX

What would a Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2027 look like?

There would be 48 world class matches across up to 10 venues between the top 20 teams in the world. The games would be played over a seven-week period and there would be between 40 and 55 team bases throughout the nation.

Who’s ALSO BIDDING FOR RUGBY WORLD CUP 2027?

USA Rugby has been approved as a bid candidate for the 2027 and 2031 Rugby World Cups, as well as the women’s tournament in 2029 but Rugby Australia is solely focused on getting the rights to 2027. World Rugby is expected to announce the successful hosts for four tournaments (two women’s and two men’s) in May next year.

How do the numbers stack up?

The tournament is projected to generate a total economic output of $2.5 billion (direct and indirect). Australia can expect to welcome more than 200,000 international visitors to our shores who will spend in excess of $1 billion. More than 13,000 jobs will be created and there will be $500 million plus in new trade and investment.

What they say . . .

“Hosting RWC 2027 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Australia, which would drive substantial economic outcomes while also providing a lasting legacy for rugby in this region.”

HAMISH MCLENNAN - Rugby Australia Chairman

“This event is a beacon to the business community and tourists around the world. We cannot underestimate the significance hosting this tournament would have for Australia’s economy.”

SIR ROD EDDINGTON RWC - 2027 Bid Advisory Board Chairman

“Hosting RWC 2027 would be a transformational moment for the game in this country and the Pacific, presenting an enormous opportunity to grow the game.”

PHIL KEARNS - Executive Director RWC 2027 Bid

“Hosting RWC 2027 would be an opportunity for the grassroots and the professional arms of the game to join hands and proudly showcase Australian rugby and a brilliant tournament to the world.”

JOHN EALES - RWC 2027 Advisory Board

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