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U.S. discussing bid to host 2023 rugby World Cup

(Reuters) - United States are discussing a bid to stage the 2023 rugby World Cup which could involve Canada co-hosting, according to USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville.

Former England captain Melville said that the U.S. had been asked to bid to host rugby's biggest prize for the first time, but did not say by whom when he appeared on the RuggaMatrix America podcast on Wednesday.

"We were asked during the World Cup whether we would be prepared to bid for 2023. I know it seems like a very long way away for us all but we have to start those processes now so we are having a discussion about that," Melville said.

"Also Canada are interested in some sort of joint bid... could we do it together as north America, because there would be opportunities in Toronto and Vancouver and obviously bringing the tournament to north America would be a tremendous boost for us all."

The U.S. have appeared in six of the seven World Cups, including the recently concluded tournament in New Zealand where they beat old cold war rivals Russia but failed once again, to advance from their pool.

Russia have already said they will bid to host the 2023 tournament and Melville said that he believed the U.S. might be more successful in winning the right to stage the 2027 tournament.

"Discussions are taking place and I get the feel that if we bid for 2023 we might not get it but in 2027 we might, but I don't think we will get '27 if we don't bid in '23," the former London Wasps and Gloucester coach said.

"I think we have to start putting the wheels in motion now to bid for the World Cup; that way we can certainly put ourselves on the map as serious contenders.

"I think people would be interested in partnering with us to do that and certainly there is a will in our rugby community and across the globe, people would be fascinated at having a World Cup in America."

The World Cup will be hosted by England in 2015 and then Japan in 2019, the first time the tournament will be staged outside either Europe or the southern hemisphere powerhouses of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

Melville said it represented an opportunity to drive interest in the sport in America where rugby struggles for attention behind American Football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey.

"It is something we should be looking at, you need to look strategically where we want rugby to be, would we be able to cope with it, have we got the infrastructure, have we got the stadia and the big question would be could we fill the stadiums."

However, the inclusion of rugby sevens in the Olympics for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro has led to increased focus and funding for the sport in America.

USA rugby said that they would be able to offer 23 fulltime contracts to Sevens players from January after striking a deal with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore)

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