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Infrastructure an obstacle for Pacific-based World Cup

20 May 23, 7:31AM 0 Comments

Written by John Davidson

Photo by Getty Images

Stadium capacity and insufficient infrastructure are the main stumbling blocks to holding the 2025 World Cup in the Pacific, according to International Rugby League (IRL) chair Troy Grant.

The IRL is on the hunt for a new host after France pulled out of staging the tournament because of funding issues.

A World Cup in New Zealand, with games also being played in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, is an option the IRL is considering. New Zealand Rugby League has expressed in an interest in hosting the World Cup, as has the Fijian government.

But Grant admits that having the necessary stadiums could be a problem if staging matches in cities such as Suva, Apia and Nukuʻalofa.

“Funding is absolutely realistic – stadia capacity is a difficulty in a number of smaller nations,” Grant said in a media briefing.

“Apia, I believe … there’s around a 12,000 capacity stadium but it would only be sufficient for a potential pool match at best, not for anything outside of that.

“There’s a raft of possibilities but with all the travel and cost and the rest of it … the economies of scale are a bit part of it when you make these decisions about stadia and travel costs.

“It’s not just one element we look at. But in some nations there is not sufficient stadia.

“That’s an issue, but that’s a long-term investment.”

Tonga’s Teufaiva Sport Stadium has a capacity of just 10,000, while Samoa’s Apia Park has a capacity of 12,000 and Fiji’s HFC Bank Stadium has a capacity of 15,000.

New Zealand has a host of grounds that could accommodate World Cup games, from Eden Park to Mt Smart Stadium, Sky Stadium, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Rotorua International Stadium, FMG Stadium Waikato, Yarrow Stadium and McLean Park. All can fit in 23,000 fans or more.

Grant has also revealed that the IRL is keen to create a new annual southern hemisphere-based Test tournament. It would involve six countries during October and November, most likely from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands and Tonga, with the seventh instead touring the northern hemisphere.

This year Tonga will take on England in a three-match Test series in the UK.

“To formulate tournaments with seven is difficult,” Grant said.

“Peter V’landys and I are both in agreement: it gives one nation a year the opportunity to tour to the north. I’m not saying it’s always England, either.

“There’s a big opportunity for it to be France, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for second tier nations.

“I think that’s a big staple of the calendar going forward, to give you an insight.”

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