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IRB to ban phone at World Cup

International Sports

IRB boss Brett GosperIRB boss Brett GosperThe International Rugby Board will consider banning players from using mobile phones before games at the World Cup next year to protect the game against corruption and claims of match-fixing.

IRB boss Brett Gosper revealed mobile phone use in stadium change rooms was one of the areas being investigated as part of a broader approach to anti-corruption plans for the tournament in England and Wales.

It could mean players are forced to hand over their phones when they enter the change rooms at venues or their use will be limited and monitored to ensure no inside information is leaked to betting agencies.

Gosper is confident rugby has the appropriate measures already in place, but said officials would not get complacent as Sports betting cast doubt over some results in other sports.

"The Rugby World Cup looks at these things ... we're in the process of evaluating all these ways you can manage information from the players through their phones," Gosper said.

"Our wish is not to impose anything draconian, but the board is looking at what policy might be developed. We haven't settled on an approach yet.

"We're evaluating approaches by other sports to see if we should have our own version. The whole usage of phones, at what point should players not have access?

"Do you include the entourage of players who are in the stands? At what point can you police these things so they're not draconian and take into the fact modern day communication, where players want to text their parents or friends.

"It all has to be balanced out, we're in the process of evaluating all of that."

The 2015 World Cup is on track to be a record-breaking tournament with incredible demand for tickets and the biggest attendance numbers.

Organisers are targeting 2.3 million spectators and the Australia v England pool game at Twickenham is the most in-demand match.

Demand was so high the 82,000-seat stadium could have been sold out eight times with an estimated 2.5 billion ($4.5 billion) injected into the British economy.

The increased interest has prompted the IRB to investigate all options to protect the integrity of the games.

The AFL cracked down on mobile phones this year, warning players they were not allowed to use them from the moment they walked into the dressing rooms until after the final siren.

Clubs were allowed to nominate 10 officials who could use their phones for "official purposes", but players did not have their phones confiscated.

International cricketers and jockeys have their phones taken off them before competing.

"We've got a huge educational drive online, 'Keeping Rugby Onside', which officials and all players have to go through," Gosper said.

"We also operate a third-party monitoring program to see if there's any irregular betting on games ... we haven't seen it in any of our tournaments so far, but we'd be awake to it."

Gosper is a former fringe Wallaby and has been in the top IRB job for two years. He is the son of respected Olympic figure Kevan Gosper.

He is excited at the upcoming "festival of rugby" with the World Cup to be followed by rugby sevens' debut at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

New Zealand introduced a new initiative this year to stamp out match fixing and other scandals, with players and administrators required to sign a pledge to keep the game clean.

They put a blanket ban on players and officials betting on any rugby matches anywhere in the world, with a maximum penalty of a life ban.

Dublin-based Gosper said: "It's [betting and corruption] a threat to all sports.

"We're not seeing evidence to see that rugby is a particularly targeted area for this kind of activity. But we're not being complacent and we proceed as if it could be [a threat]. That's across our sevens tournaments as well as the Rugby World Cup."

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