Rugby World Cup plans welcomed by Sunderland

England's Jonny Wilkinson kicks the winning drop goal to clinch the Rugby World Cup. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue Date: Monday December 12, 2011. England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has retired from international rugby, the Rugby Football Union have confirmed.
England's Jonny Wilkinson kicks the winning drop goal to clinch the Rugby World Cup. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue Date: Monday December 12, 2011. England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has retired from international rugby, the Rugby Football Union have confirmed.
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PLANS to bring the 2015 Rugby World Cup to Sunderland have been welcomed today.

As revealed in the Echo, the Stadium of Light is one of five Premier League grounds on the long-list for when England hosts the competition in three years’ time.

Seventeen stadiums are up for consideration, with the final 10 to 12 expected to be confirmed in early 2013.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said: “We’re delighted that Sunderland has made it on to the long-list of potential venues to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“Sunderland has an excellent track record in delivering a wide range of major events and a fantastic reputation for the warmth of our welcome and the passion we have for sport.

“We believe being a host venue in 2015 would add to the vibrancy of the city and further develop our reputation as a place where exciting festivals and events take place.

“We look forward to hearing about the outcome of our bid in due course.”

Opened in 1997, the stadium has hosted international football, boxing and huge summer concerts, but it would be yet another first if it was to open its doors to rugby union fans.

SAFC chief executive Margaret Byrne said: “Naturally, the club is delighted to support the city in its endeavours to bring major events to Sunderland.

“The club and the city council have developed a strong and effective partnership, which is highlighted by the success of the major music events at the Stadium of Light over the last four years, which have seen over half a million visitors welcomed to the city.”

Traditionally, rugby has always been overshadowed by football on Wearside, but Sunderland Rugby Football Club chairman Paul Geehan believes a successful bid could raise the sport’s profile in the region.

“I think would be a massive boost. It could be something we could build on, like when we won it in 2003.

“To have international players in this city would be first class. It would really inspire young players.

“I’ve been involved in rugby for 40-odd years, it does inspire people.

“It would put rugby back on the map in the North East.”

“I believe the Stadium of Light would be better than any other in the area, it has a really great family atmosphere.”

Newcastle’s Sports Direct Arena is also on the long-list, while the Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park is one of many purpose-built rugby grounds to be overlooked.

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