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France and Ireland to battle on after Rugby World Cup verdict

France and Ireland have vowed to fight on in their efforts to land the 2023 Rugby World Cup after seeing South Africa’s bid backed by the sport’s world governing body.

South Africa is seemingly set to host the 2023 World Cup after World Rugby announced it has unanimously recommended the country’s bid for its showpiece national team competition ahead of rival offers from France and Ireland. The World Rugby Council will now meet on November 15 in London to consider the recommendation and vote on the next host following the 2019 event in Japan.

The process will comprise a total of 39 votes, with a simple majority required to confirm South Africa as host. A different host could still be chosen, but it is expected that South Africa’s bid will be rubber-stamped.

The RWCL Board made its recommendation following detailed consideration of the host candidate evaluation report. South Africa received an overall score of 78.97 per cent to 75.88 for France and 72.25 for Ireland, based on a selection of weighted criteria.

“As of today, a final is taking shape in which France and South Africa will go head to head,” Bernard Laporte, president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), said, according to the Reuters news agency. 

“France was placed in top position on the main criterion: the financial offer and the guarantees. In this final straight, we are more mobilised and determined than ever to convince the voting federations that France is the best choice.”

France is bidding to return the World Cup to the country for the first time since its staging of the 2007 event, while Ireland is seeking to stage the competition outright for the first time having previously hosted matches in the 1991 and 1999 tournaments. World Rugby’s report saw Ireland finish last in all but one of the five main criteria, with its transport and information technology provisions being particularly criticised.

Dick Spring, chairman of the Ireland 2023 Bid Oversight Board, said in a statement: “There is nothing in the report which is insurmountable and this is certainly not the end of the road. We absolutely believe Ireland can secure the tournament for 2023.”

He added: “We will again, in the coming weeks, renew our vision to the Council members – a commercially successful rugby tournament based on rugby's values of integrity and camaraderie, played in full stadia in the hearts of towns and cities. Ireland's proposition in this regard is compelling, and so our team will compete to the final whistle as we bid to turn our historic bid plans into reality.”

SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said today’s news reinforced South Africa’s promise that it could deliver a “triple win” World Cup in 2023. South Africa has been targeting a return of the World Cup after the triumphant 1995 edition.

He said in a statement: “We told the World Rugby Council that we would deliver a triple win tournament when we presented to them last month – a win for the game with record receipts; a win for the fans with an unforgettable tournament in a bucket-list destination and, most importantly, a win for the players with the most athlete-centric event in the tournament’s history. We are 100 per cent confident that the commitments we made in our document will be delivered.”

South Africa’s bid book included a commitment from the government to exceed the minimum guarantee of £120m (€136.8m/$159.3m) required by World Rugby with an additional guarantee of £40m. SA Rugby forecasts another £60m in profit for World Rugby from hospitality sales and savings on event costs because of the exchange rate.

South Africa is also promising the largest ever attendance for a final with a projected 87,436 spectators at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium as part of an availability of 2.9 million match tickets for the event – also a record. Hosting the tournament is also forecast to have R27bn (€1.64bn/$1.91bn) in direct, indirect and induced economic impact for the country.

Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, said the support of the South African government had been central to the bid’s success. “The support of Cabinet and the presence of the Deputy President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, in company with the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Thulas Nxesi, at the presentations in London last month was critical,” he added.

“The fact that the Deputy Minister of Sport, Mr Gert Oosthuizen, and the Director General, Mr Alec Moemi, were also in attendance spoke volumes.”