Welford Road, the home of Leicester Tigers and the biggest club rugby ground in England, has been axed as a potential venue for the 2015 World Cup.
The ground, which has been Leicester’s home for 120 years, has been left off the long list of 17 stadia published by tournament organisers England Rugby 2015.
Gloucester’s Kingsholm is the only Aviva Premiership rugby ground on a list that includes Twickenham, the Olympic Stadium, Wembley, the Millennium Stadium and some of the biggest club football stadia in the country.
The home grounds of Manchester United, Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Southampton have all been included after expressing an interest in staging World Cup matches.
Outside of the Premier League, ER2015 have included the Amex Stadium in Brighton, Bristol City’s Ashton Gate, Pride Park in Derby, Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, Elland Road in Leeds and Stadium MK in Milton Keynes.
Leicester is still represented by the King Power Stadium, which has a capacity of over 32,000 and, tournament organisers believe, more suitable off-field facilities than Welford Road.
Critics argue the World Cup should be utilising more rugby grounds but ER2015 have to sell 2.9million tickets in order to cover the €99m guarantee owed to the International Rugby Board.
ER2015 will confirm the final list of 10-12 venues early in the new year, once the tournament match schedule has been formulated. The pool draw is being held on December 3 in London.
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium was in the original bid document but it does not feature on the shortlist, replaced by the Olympic Stadium.
ER2015 are in talks with the Olympic Park Legacy Company over the future use of the stadium, which has obvious attractions following the success of London 2012.
Andy Cosslett, England Rugby 2015 chairman, said: ``Our vision for Rugby World Cup 2015 is to ensure that we take this prestigious tournament to as many parts of the country as possible and we believe that the geographical spread of venues selected will enable us to maximise the reach of the tournament.
“In addition, we will be selecting further venues for training and team base camps that will ensure that the rugby community is at the very heart of Rugby World Cup 2015.
“We will now continue to work extremely closely with the venues, cities and stakeholders, including the Premier League and Football League, to plan the scheduling of matches and city hosting programmes to select a final list of up to 12 venues, which will be agreed by the early part of next year.
“We are confident that with the venues selected we will be able to reach our target of having up to 2.9 million tickets available, opening up the tournament to more people than ever before and in turn delivering the biggest and best Rugby World Cup that there has ever been.
“The process of choosing the long list of venues was very competitive and we would like to thank the venues and cities who we have met for their full co-operation, including the venues not selected, all of whom provided us with their fulsome assistance and information required to make our selection.”