HomeNewsEventsRugby UnionFrance

France triumphs over South Africa to land 2023 Rugby World Cup

France is set to host major sporting events in consecutive years after it yesterday (Wednesday) landed the rights to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, despite World Rugby having earlier recommended South Africa’s bid.

The 2023 World Cup will precede Paris’ staging of the 2024 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Rugby union’s world governing body, World Rugby, made the announcement in London with the decision going against the recommendation made by the Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) Board last month.

It then appeared that South Africa was set to land the 2023 World Cup after the RWCL Board unanimously recommended the country’s bid over that of proposals from France and Ireland. The process moved to a vote today by the World Rugby Council which comprised a total of 39 votes, with a simple majority required to confirm South Africa as host. 

However, the first round of voting saw France gain 18 votes, to 13 for South Africa and eight for Ireland. The second round saw France clinch the World Cup with 24 votes to South Africa’s 15. World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “They (France) presented a very strong and comprehensive bid, which clearly resonated with the Council today.

“We had three outstanding host candidates, who raised the bar and overwhelmingly demonstrated that they were all capable of hosting an exceptional Rugby World Cup. There was very little to choose between the candidates and this was reflected in the independently-audited evaluation report. I would like to pay tribute to Ireland and South Africa for their dedication throughout a rigorous, and transparent process and hope that they will bid again.”

The RWCL Board made its initial 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. Beaumont today maintained the vote did not represent an embarrassing outcome for World Rugby.

“There's always got to be one recommendation in the evaluation process and that was South Africa,” he told a media conference. “Just because it went to France doesn't mean there's humiliation whatsoever. There wasn't a great deal between France and South Africa in the evaluation report. It was very close. We feel the process has been absolutely transparent. Everyone's been able to see how the scoring was.”

France was bidding to return the World Cup to the country for the first time since its staging of the 2007 event and had claimed that if the country was awarded hosting rights, the financial benefits would help World Rugby ensure the longevity of rugby union as a professional sport.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) presented World Rugby with almost £500m (€564.4m/$677.2m) in financial guarantees for its bid and Sports Minister Laura Flessel said that hosting the event along with the 2024 Olympics would provide “synergies of organisation”.

Speaking today, FFR president Bernard Laporte said, according to the Rugbyrama.fr website: “I'm proud that France was chosen, thanks to World Rugby, despite the misunderstandings, and also thank Ireland and South Africa, who presented two very good bids. We have a record that has been solid, we will do our best and I can guarantee you that it will be a successful World Cup.”

Paris 2024 co-chair Bernard Lapasset, a former World Rugby chairman and FFR president, added: “This World Cup is extremely important for the French rugby that needed it, for its players and its leaders. This is a great moment and, for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, it is (another) sporting event that will prove that France is a great sports nation.”

South Africa had been targeting a return of the World Cup after the triumphant 1995 edition. SA Rugby expressed its “bitter disappointment” at the decision, but dismissed thoughts that it would seek to challenge it.

Jurie Roux, chief executive of SA Rugby, said: “We have said throughout that we would honour both the letter and the spirit of the process and we now consider the 2023 bidding process closed. However, in the feedback sessions I am sure we will be recommending to the World Rugby Council that the verdict of the evaluation committee become binding. World Rugby ran an exhaustive and transparent process for 15 months to identify the best host nation, only for the process to go entirely opaque for the past two weeks.”