Rugby World Cup 2027: Victories in the West | Latest Rugby News

Former Wallabies skipper Nathan Sharpe has just one word for the mood at Optus Stadium that any Rugby World Cup 2027 final in Perth can expect. “Goosebumps” is all he wants to say.

It’s hard to believe that the high-profile striker, who stood on top as straight and shiny as a lightweight pylon, is almost a decade away from playing the final of his 116 Tests.

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He has visited all the major rugby cathedrals from Twickenham to Eden Park, Millennium Stadium to Murrayfield, a packed Olympic Stadium to Ellis Park, Suncorp Stadium to Stade de France.

When you’ve seen it all, you become a solid benchmark for the atmosphere, the stadium environment and the excitement of the fans.

Sharpe was at Optus Stadium as a pundit commentator for a rugby broadcaster in 2019 when the Wallabies vs. All Blacks test was unfolding ahead of him.

“It was the most spine-tingling rugby event I’ve attended since I retired,” Sharpe said.

“I was an afterthought. The crowd held back and sang songs. The atmosphere and the stadium were great.”

It helped that the 61,241 fans in the stadium were at full blast for a spectacular 47-26 upset by Michael Hooper’s Wallabies.

It was also a reminder to Sharpe of how passionate Western Australians are about top rugby.

West Australian fans’ excitement for Rugby World Cup 2003 after the very first test, held in Perth in 1998, was the driving force behind the game in the West.

Sharpe became an integral part of this when he signed on to be the founding skipper when Western Force was born for the 2006 Super 14 season.

He had played three Tests in Perth before making the bold call to move to the Wild West.

“One of the reasons I got involved was knowing there is support over there for the game with strong rugby guys at grassroots level who can ensure power has a viable footprint,” Sharpe said.

“The thing about major events in WA, the fans are coming along.

“Some viewers in Sydney are not that vocal. Western fans have a culture of participation.

“There were some great games at the Subiaco Oval at the 2003 World Cup. People still like to talk about this time today. The fans loved it and the Wallabies didn’t even play there.”

It’s true. For nine days, Perth hosted its own five-Test Rugby World Cup, featuring eventual champions England, South Africa, Samoa, Uruguay and Georgia.

It was impressive to draw more than 38,000 fans to an England-South Africa test in a city filled with rugby-loving expats from both countries. Attracting 21,507 fans to a match between Georgia and Samoa was even more.

During that period, more than 124,000 fans turned Subiaco Oval into a colorful carpet of fan jerseys, passion and fun.

Optus Stadium is a 60,000-seat stadium for the AFL, but the designers cleverly began with permanent seating about five feet (1.5 m) off the ground.

This means that 5000 additional drop-in seats can be added on all four sides of the boundary without sacrificing views of rectangular ground sports such as rugby.

“While they play AFL there, the stadium was built with stands steep enough for the fans to feel like Twickenham or the Millennium Stadium right above them,” Sharpe said with a nod.

Sharpe is delighted to bring state-of-the-art quality to the stadium experience. He loves to.

“I saw the teams run through the tunnel to the field while the fans watched while they ate and drank beers behind the glass screen. It’s a great way to get supporters more involved,” Sharpe said.

“I have children. My 13 year old Franky enjoys his rugby. I’m looking forward to them experiencing a home World Cup.”

Force skipper Ian Prior has felt the support of the fans in a career of more than 100 games for the club.

“Obviously we have a world-class stadium and the influx of pub and big screen outside means the area can seat over 70,000 people overall,” Prior said.

“I think Perth have a strong case for at least one World Cup semi-final in 2027 based on support and facilities. We will see.

“Perth is a multicultural and sports-oriented city. There live people from all parts of the world…Kiwis, South Africans, your Irish, your English, Pacific Islanders, Australian natives and so on. Perth will certainly support a World Cup strongly.

“I remember being in Brisbane as a 13-year-old when the 2003 World Cup was taking place. It was a unique and special time. I definitely remember the pool game where (South African) Derick Hougaard folded from (Samoan killer) Brian Lima, a Wallabies match and the All Blacks Tonga game. I remember when the Wallabies were going out I said to dad ‘that’s what I want to do for a living… play professional rugby’.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of young players looking at the 2027 World Cup and the 2029 World Cup (for women) and thinking the same thing.

“The international flair of a World Cup is a really big difference at a critical time for our sport.”

That’s where the power of a home World Cup lies. It has the power to inspire and reach an audience of eager young, sports-loving Australians who are still deciding what to pursue or how passionate.

Prior spent more than a decade as a respected halfback for the 2011 title-winning Queensland Reds, the Brumbies and the Force.

“The fans have a really heartfelt connection to the Force because of what the club went through and came out the other end. We have really rusty, passionate fans in our ‘Sea Of Blue’,” added Prior.

“The renewed commitment of our academy and investment in ways to bring rugby to public schools and private schools with the Western Force Cup will put the Code in a good position by 2027.”

Prior insists the same holds true for the momentum at the 2029 Women’s World Cup and rugby sevens at the Brisbane 2032 Olympics.

The finest and fairest award for the Force Super W team was introduced just last month as the Rebecca Clough Medal to honor the West’s most decorated Wallaroo.

“There is a real path for women in football. If we can get some women playing NRLW and AFLW to think about a 2029 Rugby World Cup and a home Sevens Olympics, that’s going to be quite enticing for them,” Prior said.

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