Belfast Telegraph

Minister 'would back NI rugby bid'

Northern Ireland could play a role in hosting a future Rugby World Cup, the Tourism Minister has indicated.

Arlene Foster told the Assembly she would give all her support to any bid to hold the four-yearly tournament across the British Isles.

The current world cup is being staged in New Zealand with the 2015 contest set to be hosted by England, albeit with Cardiff's Millennium Stadium also being used.

At Assembly question time, the minister was asked by Sinn Fein's Phil Flanagan about the option of the island of Ireland hosting the event.

"Given the huge number of people who have travelled to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup can I ask the minister whether she has had or plans to have any discussion with ministerial colleagues, whether that be in the Executive or in the Dublin government, about the possibility of the Rugby World Cup coming to this island at some stage in the future?" he said.

Mrs Foster said a British Isles-wide tournament involving Northern Ireland would be a more likely option.

"As an Ulster rugby fan I would be more than delighted to see the Rugby World Cup come to the British Isles - (that) probably is a more realistic thing for us to hope," she said.

"And I will give all of my support to them in that because we have a huge number of events coming up in 2012/13 and one of those is of course the World Police and Fire Games and I think that gives us a really good opportunity to promote Northern Ireland and all that we have to offer in relation to that sort of tourism and it certainly forms part of the package that I want to promote."

Ravenhill, the home of Ulster rugby, hosted a pool match in both the 1991 and 1999 world cups.

The minister also reiterated her desire to see the Open Championship golf tournament returning to Northern Ireland in the wake of the success of major champions Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.

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