With several nations throwing their hat in the ring for 2035, we consider where it should be

France 2023 is creeping up and with it, talk of what will happen in 2035 is getting louder. Although 2035 seems ridiculously far away, it’s relevant because it’s the closest Rugby World Cup where the host hasn’t been decided. That void has been filled by talk that Italy want to host and Japan would like it back.

Of course, Japan have already hosted, just four years ago. It was very successful tournament which generated huge amounts of revenue for World Rugby. However, that 16-year gap would match the gap between France 2007 and 2023 as the joint shortest in tournament history.

That’s if we exclude 1987 as it was jointly host between New Zealand and Australia.

Italy have never hosted before. Their host status is hampered by the fact that the Italian national team can’t get anywhere near a full house for matches. That fact, and the fairly limited geographical spread of rugby interest will probably knock the Italian effort on the head. But, let’s ignore who has put themselves forward and let’s instead look at who should host.

South America host Rugby World Cup 2035

French Guiana is technically part of France so you could claim that South America has hosted the World Cup. But, let’s steer clear of that particularly boring stat. The World Cup has never come close to packing its bags and heading to South America. Up until 2007 it never really needed to.

Now it does with Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina all making the finals this year. Argentina shares a border with each of the other two and all three have enough existing facilities to make this worthwhile. Imagine this, World Rugby recreates baseball’s field of dreams and hosts a match in Patagonia in a tiny stadium. Imagine the pictures and coverage they would get from that.

Assessing who should host Rugby World Cup 2035

Bilbao hosted European finals in 2018 (Getty Images)

Basque Country hosting

Euro 2020 was a very disjointed tournament with football played seemingly at random across Europe. It lost that joyful feeling of a host country proud of the event they are putting on. What could be better to overcome that than a host region rather than a host nation?

The Basque country sits mostly in Spain but crosses the border into France. Right into the teeth of the most fervent rugby fans, arguably, in the World. In San Sebastian, Bilbao, Bayonne, Biarritz, and Vitoria-Gasteiz you already have five decent sized stadiums. If you risk geo-political discord and extend the region to include Barcelona, Perpignan, Toulouse, Narbonne, maybe even Bordeaux, you are quickly looking at a viable tournament in exactly the area where rugby is most beloved.

South Africa host Rugby World Cup 2035

That 1995 tournament is held in such high esteem. It’s almost untouchable and perhaps why a return visit isn’t yet on the cards. There are political issues which harm South Africa’s chances, but nobody could deny it would be great to go back to South Africa for a World Cup.

The stadiums are already there, as are the crowds, at least for international matches. However, the real selling point would be the ability to host matches in bordering Namibia and rugby mad Madagascar, just a, relatively, short flight away. As African rugby continues to grow, rugby needs to ensure it’s helping provide that assistance.

I’m off into the sunset on my consultant’s cheque. I’ll see you in 2035 in Buenos Aires, Bilbao, or Bloemfontein.

Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.