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Starting gun fired on 2023 Rugby World Cup bid process, as Georgia lands U20 Championship

The host selection process for the 2023 Rugby World Cup has officially launched today (Thursday), with World Rugby stating Ireland, South Africa, Italy and France are currently in contention for its showpiece tournament.

The announcement appears to firm up France’s interest in bringing the World Cup back to the country for the first time since 2007. French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique reported last month that although a bid is yet to be formalised, it was proposed by French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Pierre Camou at a meeting on March 27 and received unanimous backing in a vote.

World Rugby said today: “So far Ireland, South Africa, Italy and France have publicly announced their hosting interest and with the process now officially open, World Rugby invites unions to confirm their interest.”

Interested unions have until June 15 to officially express their interest in hosting rugby’s premier global event. As announced in March, the 2023 World Cup host union will be selected in May 2017 following a phased process. The successful country will have six years to work with tournament owners Rugby World Cup Limited to deliver the event and maximise the benefits of observing the delivery of the 2019 event in Japan.

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) in March confirmed its interest in bidding to host the event, while USA Rugby chief executive Nigel Melville told SportBusiness International in December that his organisation was in discussions over the feasibility of a bid.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has formally announced its intention to submit an all-Ireland bid to host the tournament, while Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) president Alfredo Gavazzi said a bid is being prepared as part of a strategy in which Italy is also targeting the 2024 Olympic Games and the 2022 edition of golf showpiece the Ryder Cup. Argentina has also been linked to the 2023 World Cup.

World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “We are delighted with the strong level of interest from unions and governments at this early stage, which underscores the enormous hosting appeal of Rugby World Cup in the global sporting market place and we welcome further interest in the coming month.”

Meanwhile, World Rugby has also announced that Georgia will host the 2017 edition of its U20 Championship after a unanimous vote by the World Rugby Council. The decision comes ahead of this year’s competition that will take place in Italy from June 2-20. The dates and venues for the 2017 Championship will be announced in due course.

George Nijaradze, president of the Georgian Rugby Union, said: “This is an acknowledgement of the level which Georgian rugby has reached and shows what has been done to develop rugby here. This tournament will enhance our international profile and hopefully attract a large number of people to visit our country, enjoy our rich culture and famous Georgian hospitality.”