Today should, assuming there are no delays, mark the announcement of the venues for the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups. It seems quite unusual to announce two events, which are four years apart, at the same time - but it seems like a good decision to me as it allows for a more strategic overview.
This history of the World Cup to date is as follows:
- 1987 - Australia and New Zealand - Winners: New Zealand
- 1991 - England (the rest of GB, Ireland and France hosted matches) - Winners: Australia
- 1995 - South Africa - Winners: South Africa (this had great impact on the country)
- 1999 - Wales (the rest of GB, Ireland and France hosted matches) - Winners: Australia
- 2003 - Australia - Winners: England
- 2007 - France (with some matches in Wales and Scotland) - Winners: South Africa
- 2011 - New Zealand
There are concerns that the New Zealand World Cup in 2011 could be a financial disaster, so 2015 in particular will need to be a big money-spinner. "Looked at unsentimentally, it is a small country of limited commercial potential - the rugby market in New Zealand is saturated" so there is limited growth prospect, and it is as far as can be from the major markets for travelling supporters.
Australia, England, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa and Wales have confirmed their intention to tender for Rugby World Cup 2015. Australia, Scotland, Ireland withdrew. Wales didn't bid in time (but are backing England). This leaves England, Italy, Japan and South Africa.
Australia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Russia, Scotland, South Africa and Wales formally confirmed their commitment to host the 2019 tournament. (source). Jamaica also expressed interest, but did not apply. After various changes of mind, the remaining bids are from South Africa, Japan, Italy and a combined bid from Scotland and Ireland.
They need a sure-fire banker for 2015. They also need a country to develop for 2019.
I'd like to see Italy awarded one of the world cups. It can tap into the European markets, as well as growing the game in that country. For 2015, I think it's too soon to return to Wales or South Africa - but Australia or England could be in the running. Assuming Italy gets one of the World Cups, that should rule out England and the other home nations for the other. In addition, Australia is awfully close to New Zealand in the grand scheme of things.
Though I think it's too early for 2015, South Africa is a possibility for 2019 - as is Japan (as this is a growing region). Italy would also be suitable for 2019, though it'd depend on whether 2015 is in Europe. This isn't narrowing it down, really.
I think England in 2015 and Japan in 2019. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Italy in either slot.
Update: I wrote a first draft of the above some time ago for posting today, when reviewing it this morning I noted that Rugby World Cup Ltd have recommended England and Japan to the IRB. The IRB announce their decision later today, the BBC have just said it'll be roughly 2:30pm.