You have one job, Raelene ... winning the 2027 World Cup bid

Raelene Castle's political mettle will be tested sooner rather than later as a shake-up looms of the controversy-plagued rugby World Cup bid process.

There is a good chance World Rugby will drop the "technical recommendation" that plunged into chaos last year's announcement that France, and not south Africa, would host the 2023 World Cup.

World Rugby boss Brett Gosper said as much in Sydney on Sunday, conceding it was "difficult to explain" the circumstances that saw one country given the nod by an independent audit but another awarded the hosting rights by the voting members of the World Rugby council.

"It was felt at the time of that decision that if the Rugby World Cup's going to manage a process of technical analysis then they should stick their necks out and recommend," Gosper said.

"As it turned out, that contradiction played out. It was difficult. I'm sure that's one of the aspects that will be examined. Make a technical report, maybe there's a points winner but it's not necessarily the recommendation."

If that happens, it will mean a return to the primacy of good old-fashioned politics at council level, where national unions notionally vote in regional blocs but lobbying, vote-trading and gentlemen's agreements remain the time-worn methods of deciding which country ends up hosting a World Cup.

It will put Rugby Australia's new boss in charge of winning over, well, everyone, if Australia is to host its third World Cup in 2027.

Castle will wage campaigns on at least three fronts. First, she will need to lock in government backing - and funding - at home, if Australia are to put together a credible pitch to host the third largest sports event in the world (after the Olympic Games and the football World Cup).

Second, she will need to secure the support of Australia's SANZAR partners New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, since it is likely the 2027 tournament will go to a southern hemisphere nation after three consecutive World Cups up north.

That campaign has already received a boost after a report emerged that South Africa, the aggrieved party in the 2023 debacle, was not inclined to take a second tilt at the hosting gig. Argentina have signalled their interest in a bid for 2027, but despite the political influence of Pumas legend Gus Pichot it is hard to envisage Australia losing out to a country with an economy in as parlous a state as Argentina's, to say nothing of the standard of their stadia.

Third, Castle will need to court her fellow chief executives and chairmen, who make up the voting members of the World Rugby council. Money - or its promise - will go a long way to softening that path. Gosper offered up a figure of more than $600 million in projected revenue that helped France pull off the upset last year. But as a smaller country in a less populated corner of the world, Castle will need more than that in her arsenal.

Gosper agreed Australia's impressive stash of large stadia would work in its favour.

"It is part of the assessment and was part of this assessment with the recent World Cup," he said. "I would imagine in a process going forward if there is a technical assessment, the modernity, the user-friendliness of your stadia counts for a lot."

Which means a nail-biting wait for Castle to see if the NSW government can hold its course on the $2 billion upgrade of the Allianz and ANZ stadiums. Two shiny new rectangular stadiums joining the likes of Suncorp Stadium, Etihad Stadium, Optus Stadium and new projects in Parramatta and Townsville would form the basis of a compelling bid.

It is no understatement to say rugby needs the 2027 World Cup if it is to maintain any influential footing in Australia's sporting landscape.

Aside from an influx of tourism dollars, it would give the code the benefit of at least a year in the headlines in the lead up to the tournament. People will be talking about the sport, watching it and wanting to play it.

Castle, still on a self-styled 'listening tour' of the undulating rugby landscape, will meet with Gosper on Monday. It is hard to imagine them not discussing Australia's 2027 bid.

The politicking starts now. Raelene, you have one job.

World Rugby boss Brett Gosper on...

2023 World Cup voting fallout: "We had 18 people working independently on assessing the points-scoring of [the technical assessment]. I don't really want to go into each points scoring detail, but obviously you had a winner on points and you had two dissatisfied losers who were striking up quite a bit and hitting the airwaves with their point of view and that was probably dominating at the time.

"All three bids were obviously outstanding bids in terms of a financial and infrastructure point of view. There had to be a winner. The process drove huge competition between the three entities to the point where we know, from a secured guaranteed point of view, the profit or surplus that will come from the World Cup in France will be twice that of England only eight years later. We are moving, from a World Rugby perspective of being able to invest those dollars into the game, from about ??180 million profit in 2015 to north of ??350 million in France in 2023. That, for us, is a successful process with an outcome that is great for rugby globally."

Combined men's and women's Sevens World Series:
"We're sort of probably on Portia's [Woodman] side, we like to see combined tournaments. We know it's not easy to do in every country, we're going through the tender process now for the next World Series.
"We would incentivise them financially in some way to try and get them to combine them and in future we can look at all sorts of ways to make them an easier proposition.
"I think the fans want to see the women play. Certainly the sponsors are very keen, we've got a new sponsor here, Capgemini, that are a global sponsor that are very keen that the women are well represented. There's a commercial push, not just a moral desire to get the women out there, a commercial belief that it's good for business."

Proposed Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship: "This is something that, if it happens, has to be approved by Rugby Australia first, before it goes anywhere else. There are some delicate issues around player movement, rival competitions, calendar and all the rest of it, but there certainly seem to be some constructive dialogue going on in that area.

"For World Rugby, if someone is intending to invest the kind of money we are talking about in other parts of the region, that's interesting for us. It's not every day you get a third party investor coming along to talk in that manner with that amount of money. We hope something comes out of this, where the investment happens in a good way for everyone.

"We see it purely from a raising of the profile in markets that otherwise are reasonably sleepy from a major rugby point of view. If this is something that could ignite interest in India, China, parts of the Pacific elsewhere, then it's in our interests to support that. But again that really is up for Rugby Australia and the other unions involved geographically to approve that before we would look over it and give it our blessing ourselves."

This story You have one job, Raelene ... winning the 2027 World Cup bid first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.