Michelle Hooper, tournament director for the 2022 Rugby World Cup, talks to Ashley Stanley in part two of LockerRoom’s video series, The Big Four, where we meet the women leading the four global sporting events in New Zealand over the next two years – three World Cups and the IWG Women and Sport conference.

One of the greatest motivators for Michelle Hooper to run the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand was to make sure the Black Ferns – five-time world champions – got to play in front of packed houses.  Because, she says, they deserve so much.

“They deserve every New Zealander to know all of their names. They deserve to be able to come to a stadium like Eden Park and everyone’s cheering for them. Because look at what they’ve done for our country,” says Hooper, the director of the 2022 world tournament.

“And now they’ve got the chance to defend it on home soil. That’s just outstanding, you know? I think equally the players coming here from overseas, playing a Rugby World Cup here in New Zealand is the holy grail of rugby for those players.”

Hooper has filled stadiums before. The girl who started as a volunteer at Team New Zealand in their 2000 defence of the America’s Cup went on to be general co-ordinator of the 2014 FIFA Girls Youth Olympics in China, and competition director of the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup in Auckland.

This will be her fourth Rugby World Cup – in the 2011 tournament she ran all the matches at Eden Park, in 2015 she was match commissioner at England’s Twickenham ground, and she was called in to help deliver the last men’s World Cup in Japan in 2019.

In episode two of our series, The Big Four, Hooper admits she faced a “very, very difficult” decision postponing this World Cup for a year because of Covid-19. “The threshold for risk is too great for the tournament to take part this year. And when you look at the opportunities in 2022, they’re much better. It’s going to be amazing.” 

* You can watch part one, Andrea Nelson and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2022, here.  Next Friday: Jane Patterson, COO for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

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