Gloucester and Bristol in running to host Rugby World Cup
Gloucester and Bristol remain in the running to host Rugby World Cup matches when the tournament comes to England and Wales in 2015.
Kingsholm is the only Aviva Premiership club stadium in the running, while Bristol City's Ashton Gate is one of 12 club football grounds on the 17-venue list of potential host venues for what is the third most watched sporting event on the planet.
Rugby World Cup Limited and the RFU are expected to make their final decisions by Spring 2013.
Gloucester City Council have submitted an extra application to host one of the World Cup nations in the county – with Hartpury College and Imjin Barracks potential bases. That would see Kingsholm play host to as many as three group matches, with one national side effectively employing the ground as a 'home stadium'.
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Gloucester's history of staging international matches is expected to work in the council's favour, as are the high-class sporting facilities offered at a number of locations across the county.
Gloucester Rugby, for their part, are keen to do whatever they can to help push Kingsholm across the line.
Acting managing director Chris Ferguson explained: "A lot of hard work has gone into getting us this far but we are also conscious that there is still a lot of work to be done."
"We're one step closer and we'll now be pulling out all the stops to make the final list."
Ashton Gate last hosted top-class international rugby during the 1999 World Cup, when New Zealand – including legend of the sport Jonah Lomu – beat Tonga 45-9.
City spokesman Adam Baker said: "We're very pleased to have been included on this long list, up against some strong competition and some of the best stadia in the country. To have the Rugby World Cup in Bristol would be amazing. Obviously rugby is very popular in Bristol, and Bath nearby, so it would be terrific to host a game or games here."
Confirmation comes after approval from the Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) Board and follows an extensive and thorough evaluation process, undertaken by England Rugby 2015 (ER 2015) in collaboration with tournament owners RWCL, host broadcaster ITV and commercial stakeholders.
RWCL officials went to Ashton Gate in the summer and were impressed by what they saw and the city as a whole.
The next stage in the venue selection process is for ER2015 to continue discussions with the venues in collaboration with their respective city councils, regional authorities and other stakeholders.
City Council leader Simon Cook said the local administration is fully supportive of the bid for as many as three matches during the tournament. He said: "We're fully in support of the bid and it would be fantastic for the city if it were to be successful."
Due to be played between September 18 and October 31, the 2015 World Cup will be made up of 48 matches.
The selection procedure for the venues took into account a geographical spread across the country, sporting and facilities criteria, levels of support from candidate host cities and capacity requirements for the successful delivery of a Rugby World Cup that will see approximately 2.9 million tickets being made available to fans, and upwards of 400,000 international fans visiting England from more than 100 countries.
Following the selection of match venues, ER 2015 will also select a range of training and team base camps at locations throughout the country, as well as numerous locations for fan zones.