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Olympic Stadium set to be WC venue

Wed, 01 May 2013 17:35
Olympicstadium Millennium-stadium-night-63

London's Olympic Stadium is set to be announced as one of the venues for the 2015 Rugby World Cup when organisers unveil their list of grounds for the tournament on Thursday.

England 2015 chiefs have guaranteed to deliver £80 million ($125 million) in revenue to the International Rugby Board (IRB) from the tournament and that means they must sell as many tickets as possible.

Initially, officials hoped the likes of Manchester United's 75,000-seater Old Trafford stadium would be available to them.

But with the World Cup coinciding with the English football season, the Premier League champions have rejected overtures to stage rugby matches there, fearing damage to the pitch.

The Olympic Stadium has a maximum capacity of some 80,000 but doubt remains over whether retractable seating covering its athletics track - which would take rugby fans closer to the action - will have been installed by 2015.

Premier League side West Ham are due to move into the Olympic Stadium from 2016.

Thursday's announcement at Twickenham, English rugby's headquarters in south-west London, could see as many as 13 football grounds - including Wembley - selected as World Cup venues.

Many rugby fans and club officials in England have been disappointed that so many traditional rugby grounds in the sport's birthplace, such as Leicester's Welford Road, have been overlooked for the sport's showpiece tournament.

The 2011 edition in New Zealand, which the All Blacks won on home soil, was staged at grounds whose main purpose is host rugby matches.

But having guaranteed the IRB such an impressive financial return, the fact no major English club ground can top the capacity of a comparable football club mean organisers feel justified in turning to the likes of Manchester City's Eastlands Stadium, also set to be named as a World Cup venue.

Thursday's announcement should also see Twickenham and Cardiff's Millennium Stadium announced as quarterfinal venues, with the London ground staging both semifinals and the Final.

The other rugby grounds on the venue shortlist for the 48-match tournament are Kingsholm and Sandy Park, respectively the homes of south-west clubs Gloucester and Exeter.

AFP

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