The Olympic Stadium will stage matches during the 2015 Rugby World Cup if the fog over the venue’s post-Games future clears by the end of the season.
Tournament organisers spelt out their desire to include the iconic stadium yesterday, in what they promised will be the biggest and best Rugby World Cup in history.
Talks are underway for the planet’s best rugby players to follow in the footsteps of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, with the Olympics Stadium one of up to 12 venues earmarked for the event.
The proviso is that the decision on the stadium’s modification and ownership is sorted out by May, when England 2015 organisers want the fixture schedule finalised.
“We’d love to include it because it’s such a magical place,” said England 2015 chairman Andrew Cosslett.
“It will depend, though, on what they do with the configuration because while it is great for athletics, it’s not so great if you are a long way away for a rugby match.”
If, as expected, West Ham are given the go-ahead to turn it into a 55,000-capacity football arena, it will fit the bill perfectly for what the Rugby World Cup organisers want.
Their ambitious target of 2.9m ticket sales relies on using major stadia rather than rugby grounds. While both Gloucester and Leicester have applied to host matches, their capacities might not be enough.
Cosslett confirmed Twickenham, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Wembley and Old Trafford yesterday and is set to expand the list of football grounds in the New Year, although he admitted the Rugby World Cup had run into opposition from some Premiership managers over the effect the games in September and October would have on their pitches.
Wales will certainly have no objection to using Cardiff and they could yet enjoy home advantage for all their pool games at England’s World Cup.
Today marks three years until the tournament begins, with European qualification starting in three weeks, between Hungary and Bulgaria.
There is a concern that rugby union may be biting off more than it can chew with its lofty England 2015 targets, which include a profit of more than £100m to fund the global game.
But the success of the Olympics and Paralympics has shown the public appetite for major sports’ gatherings in this country.
“If we fulfil our ambition of making it the best Rugby World Cup ever, I think we will fill the stadia,” said Coslett. “We are very confident we’ll be able to capture the public’s interest in big events.”
The Rugby World Cup organisers will be relying on LOCOG director of sport Debbie Jevans to sprinkle some Olympic magic when she arrives as England 2015 chief executive next month.