The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has formally announced its intention to submit an all-Ireland bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive, both of whom pledged their support for the tournament bid.
As well as traditional rugby stadiums such as the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the Kingspan at Ravenhill in Belfast and Thomond Park in Limerick, a 2023 World Cup in Ireland would also hope to utilise a number of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) venues, including the 82,300-capacity Croke Park in Dublin.
An IRFU bid hinged on the backing of the GAA, which was received in March 2013, as the union would need to utilise its stadia to host the World Cup. Along with the iconic Croke Park, there are said to be another 10 Gaelic sports stadia with a capacity equal to or greater than Irish rugby’s second-largest venue, Munster’s Thomond Park. Ireland played its national team matches at Croke Park from February 2007 to March 2010 while its Lansdowne Road home was transformed to the Aviva Stadium. This was permitted following a landmark vote in 2005, allowing rugby and football to be played at the Dublin venue.
Speaking at the announcement in Armagh, Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “I am delighted to formally announce the Government's support, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Executive, to formally back the IRFU's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Ireland will put together a winning bid that will be impossible to resist. We have the fans, the stadiums, and the accessibility to make it a World Cup to remember.”
The announcement comes 11 months after a cross-border working group was set up to assess the feasibility of a bid. That group, chaired by former Ireland player Hugo MacNeill, featured politicians from both sides of the border and has given the green light to a formal bid, which is estimated at costing €1.5m ($1.84m).
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson added: “I fully support this bid by the IRFU to bring an elite international sporting event to the home of one of the powerhouses of world rugby. It would be a tremendous achievement to see the IRFU host the Rugby World Cup 2023. This bid shows the ambition of the Northern Ireland Executive and our determination to bring world class international sporting events to Northern Ireland.”
It is expected that World Rugby, the international governing body for rugby union, will announce which bid has been successful in mid-2017. Italy is also expected to bid for the tournament, with Italian Rugby Federation president Alfredo Gavazzi yesterday (Thursday) stating that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and National Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago are in favour. South Africa, the host in 1995, is also expected to enter the running for the 2023 tournament.
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: “The Rugby World Cup is one of the world's major sporting events and the IRFU has been a central supporter of the tournament since its inauguration in 1987. In addition, Ireland has played a major part in the development of rugby football internationally. Stretching back to the Union's formation in 1879, and right throughout the modern era, Irish rugby has supplied a series of inspirational players and administrators to the international game. We believe it is opportune for us now to put forward Ireland's undoubted credentials to host world rugby's showpiece.”