altFEBRUARY 13- RUSSIA today became the first country to express its interest in hosting the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens.


It is part of a new strategy designed for the sport to reach new emerging markets.


Russia is already due to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and is also bidding for the football World Cup in 2018.


Bernard Lapasset, the chairman of the International Rugby Board (IRB), said: “Rugby World Cup Limited is delighted that the Rugby Union of Russia has expressed an interest to host Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013.


"The tournament is firmly established as a major event on the world sporting calendar, attracting sell-out crowds and a global television audience of over half a billion.


“Rugby Sevens is a major driving force behind the continued growth of the men’s and women’s game around the world, particularly in new markets and we are excited that the Rugby Union of Russia (RUR) views the hosting of the tournament and a focus on Sevens development will provide a major stimulus for growth within Russia.”


The 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament is due to take place in Dubai next month which officials hope to use to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include the sport in the programme for the 2016 Games.


In order to concentrate all its resources on the bid, the RUR has dropped its bid for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.


They had been one of eight countries bidding to host the tournament.


Viatcheslav Kopiev, the president of the RUR, said: “After analysing all the aspects involved in the organisation of Rugby World Cup 2019, the Rugby Union of Russia has decided to withdraw its intention to tender.


“We had the full backing of the Russian Government who were committed to guaranteeing the £96 million minimum tournament fee for 2019, but the Union believes that the best focus of our resources for growing the Game within Russia is the identification of single-city tournaments and the role of Sevens in attracting new men, women and children to rugby.”


“Tendering for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 is a natural step after our bid for the 2009 tournament and we are also delighted to have received backing from the highest levels of Government."


Russia’s withdrawal leaves a record eight countries tendering to host either Rugby World Cup 2015 or 2019.


Australia, England, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa and Wales have confirmed their intention to tender for Rugby World Cup in 2015, while Australia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa and Wales formally confirmed their commitment to host the 2019 tournament.


Lapasset said: "Rugby World Cup Limited has now met with a number of the tender Unions for Rugby World Cup 2015 and 2019 and we have been encouraged by the very positive nature of discussions and the level of support being shown by the respective Governments."


The eight countries now have until May 8 to submit their detailed tender responses.


The responses will then be reviewed by the IRB and the countries will be invited to make a presentation to the IRB Council on May 13.


The winning bids for both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups will be chosen at a special meeting of the IRB Council in Dublin on July 28.