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The United States has thrown its hat into the ring to host the Rugby World Cup, with USA Rugby clearing the first hurdle in an attempt to bring the game’s global showpiece to North America for either the 2027, 2029 or 2031 events.

USA Rugby was on Thursday “formally accepted” as one of the candidates for the three tournaments, all of which are being awarded in the middle of 2022.

The organisation had been conducting a feasibility study into the country’s readiness to host the tournament since 2020, and it will now turn its focus to preparing a formal bid for one or more of the tournaments before the closing deadline of January next year.

USA Rugby could host either of the 2027 or 2031 men’s tournaments while the 2029 women’s tournament is also up for grabs.

“Putting our hand up to host a Rugby World Cup is a benchmark for the game in America, however the exciting stages are just now beginning as the stakeholder group continues into campaign planning,” USA Rugby CEO and former General Manager to Rugby World Cup, Ross Young said.

“The great work this group of subject matter experts, led by former Director Jim Brown, has done supersedes what has happened previously at this stage, and truly highlights the potential for a Rugby World Cup being held on American soil.”

It may be that the USA Rugby decides to focus on the 2029 women’s tournament followed by the 2031 men’s edition two years later, creating what would be a huge three years for the code in a market it is desperate to crack.

Australia is also well and truly on the front foot for the 2027 tournament having launched its bid last month, and the nation may be seen as the safer alternative for the event given its existing standing in rugby globally.

But the United States at last appears to be making headway in growing the game domestically with the professional Major League Rugby expanding into new markets in 2021 in what is its fourth season of existence.

The introduction of the LA Giltinis, who have played games at the LA Coliseum and SoFi Stadium, has created global rugby headlines and helped to garner greater attention for the fledgling league with their playing roster of star former international players.

And USA Rugby is confident that fan engagement can continue to grow in the lead-up to any potential World Cup hosted by the United States.

“In August, we set out to do a full evaluation and expert analysis to answer a question long asked, can the United States host a Rugby World Cup?” Jim Brown, USA Rugby World Cup Bid Chair, said.

“The process was an undertaking; however, we are delighted to confirm that the U.S. could not only meet the technical requirements of hosting the men’s and women’s events, but also reach new levels of team and fan experience. We look forward to sharing results with the USA Rugby community and begin this journey towards rugby’s biggest stage.”

Just two years ago the Rugby World Cup broke new ground when it was hosted in Asia for the first time, with Japan turning on an event to remember. The Japanese team also reach the quarterfinals of the event for the first time, topping their pool with victories over Tier 1 rugby nations Ireland and Scotland.

The 2019 tournament only further whet the appetite of World Rugby administrators to solidify the game’s global footprint with the United States deemed a key target.

World Rugby executives are pleased the USA Rugby had progressed in its journey to bring the game’s global showpiece to the U.S.

“The work accomplished by Jim Brown and the USA Rugby World Cup feasibility group was well received at the World Rugby level,” Bob Latham, USA Rugby Council Representative and World Rugby Executive Committee member, said.

“USA Rugby has cleared an important first hurdle by establishing our capability to present a credible and compelling bid at this stage in the process. The prospect is exciting, and I hope that everyone with an interest in the future of rugby in America will come together to support this effort.”

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Sources: Phils add RHP Walker for 4 years, $72M

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Sources: Phils add RHP Walker for 4 years, M

The Philadelphia Phillies and right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker have reached agreement on a four-year, $72 million contract, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Tuesday.

A day after reaching a blockbuster deal with shortstop Trea Turner, the Phillies add to their rotation with one of the top pitchers left on the free agent market.

Walker joins Philadelphia after one of the strongest seasons of his career in 2022, when he started 29 games for the New York Mets and posted a 3.49 ERA, 2.6 bWAR and a 1.19 WHIP in 157 innings pitched, striking out 132 batters while walking 45.

The Phillies mark the fifth team of Walker’s major league career, including the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays and Mets.

The 30-year-old righty served as a dependable back-of-the-rotation starter for the Mets throughout the course of the season before declining his $7.5 million player option for 2023, taking a $3 million buyout to explore free agency. The Mets declined to offer a qualifying offer to Walker.

Walker previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed the entire 2019 season. His 2022 campaign marked his most successful on the mound since undergoing treatment on a partial tear of a UCL in his right elbow.

Walker is the second pitcher to leave the Mets’ rotation, after Jacob deGrom signed with the Texas Rangers. New York subsequently responded by signing Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86 million deal.

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Pirates win 1st MLB draft lottery, right to pick first

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Pirates win 1st MLB draft lottery, right to pick first

The Pittsburgh Pirates secured the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft on Tuesday, during Major League Baseball’s first ever draft lottery. The next five picks, respectively, went to the Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics.

MLB and the MLB Players’ Association agreed to a draft lottery in the new collective bargaining agreement, whereby the 18 teams that did not reach the postseason would vie for the first six selections. Odds, based on 2022 winning percentage, ranged from 16.5% (for the Pirates, Nationals and A’s) to 0.2% (Milwaukee Brewers).

The A’s went in tied for the best chance at the No. 1 overall pick and finished with the No. 6 selection. The Twins took an even bigger step in the other direction, starting with the 13th-best odds and ultimately picking fifth.

The Nos. 7 to 18 picks in next year’s draft – slated for July from Seattle, site of the next All-Star Game – will be slotted by reverse winning percentage, followed by how teams finished in the postseason (the World Series-champion Houston Astros, for example, will pick 30th). Rounds 2 through 20 will navigate entirely in reverse order of winning percentage and postseason finish.

MLB placed more picks up for grabs than any other major spot in its first draft lottery. Only the first four picks of the NBA’s draft are attained through the draft lottery. In the NHL, it’s just the first two. The bottom three teams were all given the same odds for the No. 1 overall pick in an effort to disincentivize tanking for the worst record. Large-market teams (defined as those who do not receive revenue sharing) are prohibited from entering the draft lottery in back-to-back years; small-market teams can’t enter it three straight years.

MLB Network announced the results of the lottery inside a ballroom from the Hyatt hotel that is staging this year’s Winter Meetings, with executives from the 18 eligible clubs sitting at nearby tables and outfielder-turned-MLB-executive Raul Ibanez reading the results. But the process took place hours later, when a collection of sealed balls arrived in a suitcase and 1,000 four-number combinations were assigned to the 18 teams (the higher the odds for the No. 1 overall pick, the more combinations assigned to the team). Bill Francis, who helps run the MLB Draft, selected the six four-number combinations that determined the order. PricewaterhouseCoopers oversaw the process.

The top three players in next year’s draft, based on rankings from ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel in July, are: Wyatt Langford, a center fielder from Florida; Jacob Wilson, a shortstop from Grand Canyon; and Max Clark, a center fielder from Franklin Community High School in Indiana. This will mark the sixth time the Pirates select first overall. They did so as recently as 2021, selecting catcher Henry Davis out of Louisville.

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Haniger to Giants; 3 years, $43.5M, sources say

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Haniger to Giants; 3 years, .5M, sources say

The San Francisco Giants agreed to terms with outfielder Mitch Haniger, the team announced Tuesday, filling a hole in the Giants’ outfield as they continue their free agent pursuit of American League MVP Aaron Judge.

The deal is for three years and $43.5 million and includes a player opt-out after the second year, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Haniger, who turns 32 later this month, has posted star-caliber numbers in the two seasons he has been healthy, but has struggled with injuries throughout his major league career, most of which he spent in Seattle. With the Mariners last season, he hit .246/.308/.429 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in 57 games, helping propel the team to its first playoff berth in two decades.

One season earlier, Haniger showed the sort of talent that led the Giants to consider a multiyear deal at $14.5 million a season. He hit 39 home runs, good for fifth in the AL, and drove in 100 runs while posting 3.9 Wins Above Replacement over 157 games, according to Baseball-Reference.

The Giants’ offseason began with outfielder Joc Pederson accepting a $19.65 million qualifying offer. It continues with Haniger and could include Judge, who last year spent a majority of his time in center field but has played most of his career in right. Along with Haniger and Mike Yastrzemski, Judge could be part of the outfield while Pederson spends most of his time at designated hitter.

Long a fan favorite and leader in Seattle, Haniger joined the Mariners in November 2016, when Arizona — which drafted him in the first round of the 2012 draft — traded him along with Jean Segura for infielder/outfielder Ketel Marte and pitcher Taijuan Walker.

Haniger immediately produced for Seattle, putting up an OPS of .843 in his first season. His best year came in 2018, when he played 157 games and hit .285/.366/.493 with 26 home runs and played well above-average defense in right field.

The next season, in 2019, Haniger suffered a ruptured testicle after a foul ball took an unfortunate carom. The injury kept him out for the remainder of the season, and he missed significant time with back and core injuries, not playing in 2020.

His 2021 return was hailed in Seattle, where Haniger helped steer the Mariners to the cusp of the postseason with a bevy of clutch hits. He’ll now slot into the middle of a Giants lineup that ranked 11th in baseball in runs scored but lost three-quarters of its infield — first baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Evan Longoria — to free agency.

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