U.S. to host Rugby World Cups in 2031, 2033

Rugby World Cup
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The United States will stage a Rugby World Cup for the first time after being voted as the host of the men’s tournament in 2031 and the women’s tournament two years later.

World Rugby announced the host nations for all the World Cups from 2025-33 after a meeting of its council in Dublin on Thursday, with Australia also staging back-to-back tournaments in 2027 (men) and 2029 (women).

In 2016, rugby returned to the Olympics for the first time since 1924, though the Olympic version is rugby sevens, which differs from the 15-per-side Rugby World Cup. The U.S. hosted the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens for the first time in 2018 in San Francisco.

The sport is breaking new ground by taking the men’s 15-a-side tournament — World Rugby’s most lucrative asset — to North America, with the governing body regarding it as an area of untapped potential in both a commercial and sporting sense. The women’s World Cup was played in Canada in 2006.

USA Rugby chief executive Ross Young described the decision as a “paradigm-shifting catalyst for the growth of our sport, not only here in the United States but around the world.”

“USA Rugby will now venture into a new era,” Young added, “and ensure the sport’s most treasured event is a springboard for creating lasting, sustainable enthusiasm and passion for rugby from coast to coast.”

Hosting the two World Cups will cost around $500 million, with profits and losses shared between World Rugby and USA Rugby. More than 20 American cities are potential hosts for World Cup matches, USA Rugby has said.

The bid received support from the White House, with U.S. President Joe Biden sending a letter to World Rugby last month giving governmental guarantees and his backing for the “development of rugby in the United States.”

The men’s Rugby World Cup is regarded in some parts of the world as the third biggest sporting event, after the soccer World Cup and the Summer Olympics.

The United States is hosting all three events in a five-year span from 2026, starting with the men’s soccer World Cup that year — with Mexico and Canada as co-hosts — and then the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028.

“The unparalleled growth made possible by bringing the world’s third-largest sports event and the fastest growing women’s event to the world’s largest sports market cannot be overstated,” USA Rugby said.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit up in green and gold after World Rugby’s announcement, which sees the men’s tournament returning to Australia for the first time since 2003.

It is being viewed as a chance to rejuvenate rugby in the country as the World Cups come after the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2025, bringing much-needed revenue to its governing body — Rugby Australia — that was badly hit by the pandemic.

Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos called it “the start of a new era for Australian Rugby.”

“Australia will become the center of the rugby world over the next decade,” he said, “and that is incredibly exciting.”

The 2027 tournament will be the 40th anniversary of Australia and New Zealand hosting the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.

For the first time, World Rugby is using a new partnership hosting model as part of a streamlined bid process. Australia had already been named as the “preferred candidate” for the 2027 and ’29 tournaments while the United States had entered “exclusive targeted dialogue” with World Rugby for the 2031 men’s tournament.

England was announced as the host of the women’s World Cup in 2025.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Olympic 400m champion, announces pregnancy

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Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the two-time reigning Olympic 400m champion, announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“New Year, New Blessing,” she posted on social media with husband Maicel Uibo, the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the decathlon for Estonia. “We can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy.”

Miller-Uibo, 28, followed her repeat Olympic title in Tokyo by winning her first world indoor and outdoor titles last year.

Also last year, Miller-Uibo said she planned to drop the 400m and focus on the 200m going into the 2024 Paris Games rather than possibly bid to become the first woman to win the same individual Olympic running event three times.

She has plenty of experience in the 200m, making her world championships debut in that event in 2013 and placing fourth. She earned 200m bronze at the 2017 Worlds, was the world’s fastest woman in the event in 2019 and petitioned for a Tokyo Olympic schedule change to make a 200m-400m double easier. The petition was unsuccessful.

She did both races anyway, finishing last in the 200m final, 1.7 seconds behind the penultimate finisher on the same day of the 400m first round.

She did not race the 200m at last July’s worlds, where the 200m and 400m overlapped.

Notable moms to win individual Olympic sprint titles include American Wilma Rudolph, who swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1960 Rome Olympics two years after having daughter Yolanda.

And Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, when the mother of two also held world records in the high jump and long jump, two events in which she didn’t compete at those Games.

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