RWC Bid: Tasmanian Rugby hoping 2027 bid can build off iconic 2003 spectacle

Thu, 17/06/2021, 01:00 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Romania celebrates following their 2003 World Cup win over Namibia. Photo: Getty Images

In the grand scheme of a Rugby World Cup, Romania’s clash with Namibia wouldn’t usually raise the attention of those outside of the hardcore rugby fans.

However, on October 30 2003, the Pool A game transformed the city of Launceston into Rugby fanatics as over 15,000 crammed into York Park.

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With neither team naturally garnering favouritism within the Tasmanian locals, officials got creative as they galvanised supporters.

Residents were split by birth dates. Those born on an odd date were Romanian, the evens Namibian.

In the end, the odds got up with the Romanians taking the 37-7 win.

However, the spectacle helped put the sport on the map according to Tasmanian Rugby president Ebony Altimira.

“It really gave us an excitement and helped get people behind the teams because they were probably teams that people had never heard of or knew anything about previously but it created an excitement and attachment to the teams,” she explained.

“For us as a legacy, participation grew by 35% post the World Cup in 2003. For us to have something like that happen again would be a huge benefit.

“There’s still people that talk about the Namibia-Romania game. I don’t think there’s another game that people could relate to like that and even having players talk about playing in the pre-game and recalling the atmosphere and being a part of it, for us to have that growth would be amazing.”

Game On for Rugby World Cup on home soil

With Australia in the process of bidding for Rugby World Cup 2027, Altimira was confident a successful bid would continue this legacy for another generation.

“It would be amazing for us. It would help us promote Rugby and bring it to people who may not be able to go and see these games,” she believes.

“Not only the experience of the games but everything that goes with it, the atmosphere and excitement that it creates even around the place would be amazing.”

This was shared by former Wallaby Luke Burgess, who has had a first-hand experience with working in the Tasmanian Rugby community after his retirement, serving as a development manager in the area.

He believes the naturally diverse community would embrace the once-in-a-generation opportunity to host the major sporting event.

“It’d be packed. To have World Cup matches down here would be amazing,” Burgess said.

“The rugby community down here is naturally diverse because you have people from all over the world in Tasmania who have one common thread which is Rugby. They all come to Rugby Park, there’s people from Scotland, South Africa, Ireland and the Pacific…there’s heaps of Rugby people down here.

“If they are not down at Rugby Park in Hobart or any of the Rugby grounds, they are probably watching on TV at home.”

Burgess started his professional career as the 2003 World Cup kicked into action, joining the Brumbies.

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Being involved within Australian Rugby around the period was ‘electric’ as the Wallabies went on their Final run according to Burgess, hopeful the ’27 event can recapture that feeling and legacy.

“It was electric, really exciting. Particularly with the way they performed in that semi against New Zealand and the Final, probably one of the greatest World Cup games and finals in history,” he added on the ’03 event.

“It was magic. All World Cups are magic but that one was particularly special. The buzz around the game then was electric.”

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