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Rugby - Australian bid for women's World Cup spurns major cities

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s bid to host the 2021 women’s Rugby World Cup would see the tournament steer clear of major cities and instead be based in the port of Newcastle and surrounding Hunter region, Rugby Australia said on Wednesday.

Australia is bidding to host the women’s tournament for the first time, having staged the 2003 men’s showpiece and co-hosted the inaugural 1987 edition with New Zealand.

The Newcastle International Sports Centre, which has a capacity of 30,000 and includes top-flight rugby league and soccer teams as tenants, would host the final.

The city of 300,000 is some two hours’ drive north of Sydney in eastern New South Wales state.

Maitland, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) northwest of Newcastle in the Hunter Valley, will be the other host city, RA said.

The men’s tournaments were held in multiple state capitals but RA CEO Raelene Castle said the Hunter region offered convenience and world-class facilities.

“We want to make sure we put the biggest crowd ever to watch a women’s World Cup final, hopefully to watch Australia play in that final,” Castle told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

While lacking an international profile, the Hunter region is a major centre for rugby in Australia, with Newcastle having hosted the men’s Wallabies team for tests and training camps.

Australia’s federal government has chipped in A$300,000 (£172,373.81) to support the bid, which is due for submission on Friday.

The New South Wales state government has pledged A$5 million toward the cost of hosting the tournament should the bid be successful, Fairfax media reported.

New Zealand, France, Portugal, England and Wales were the other nations to express interest in hosting the tournament by World Rugby’s May 31 deadline. The winning bidder will be announced in November.

Ireland hosted the 2017 tournament won by New Zealand.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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