03 JOHN O’NEILL

NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences -

Aus­tralia and New Zealand were all set to co-host the 2003 World Cup. Then things got messy as the tour­na­ment got closer. Some of the de­tail be­gan to be prob­lem­atic and the im­pres­sion was drawn that the Aus­tralian Rugby Union, through chief ex­ec­u­tive John O’Neill, boxed New Zealand into a cor­ner.

O’Neill, it was ar­gued, slipped New Zealand the thin end of the host­ing wedge, of­fer­ing limited fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion while keep­ing the high­est pro­file show­piece games across the Tas­man.

In the end, af­ter months of pro­tracted and at times heated ne­go­ti­a­tions, New Zealand gave up and Aus­tralia were awarded the sole rights.

It was seen by many as an act of treach­ery by O’Neill that he had played for that very sce­nario.

But what­ever the truth, it turned out to be an enor­mous bless­ing in dis­guise as New Zealand avoided tak­ing a fi­nan­cial bath and by hav­ing missed out, were able to mount a suc­cess­ful solo bid for the 2011 host­ing rights.

“The irony of it is that if we hadn’t lost the co-host­ing rights we wouldn’t have put in a bid and we cer­tainly wouldn’t have got the chance to host the whole tour­na­ment [in 2011],” says NZR chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Tew.

“The work that was done be­tween Novem­ber 2002 and Novem­ber 2005 was con­sid­er­able and sym­bol­i­cally, given the Lions are com­ing back, it was very help­ful we had the Lions in 2005 be­cause we were able to demon­strate our ca­pa­bil­ity to host a ma­jor event and that was very much an im­por­tant part of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. I am ab­so­lutely con­vinced of that.”

OP­POR­TU­NITY KNOCKS Los­ing the 2003 co-host­ing rights was a bless­ing in dis­guise for New Zealand.

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