World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont today (Monday) said that the sport’s global governing body faces a tough choice in selecting the host of the 2023 World Cup after France, Ireland and South Africa laid out “exceptionally strong, impressive and exciting bids” for the national team tournament.
The three candidate unions presented their vision and plans to the World Rugby Council in London today. France is bidding to return the World Cup to the country for the first time since its staging of the 2007 event and has previously said that if the country is awarded hosting rights, the financial benefits will help World Rugby ensure the longevity of rugby union as a professional sport.
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) has presented World Rugby with almost £500m (€564.4m/$677.2m) in financial guarantees for its bid and it today unveiled innovative proposals such as teams being knocked out in the pool stage invited to remain as guests and the introduction of the event’s first closing ceremony.
France is seeking the 2023 World Cup after Paris was this month formally confirmed as host of the 2024 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Sports Minister Laura Flessel said that hosting the event along with the 2024 Olympics would provide “synergies of organisation”.
Ireland is seeking to stage the Rugby World Cup outright for the first time having previously hosted matches in the 1991 and 1999 tournaments. The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has claimed it will deliver the largest, most secure, commercial programme ever offered to World Rugby as well as touting its connection to the North American market through the wider Irish diaspora.
Ireland’s cross-border bid will utilise traditional rugby venues such as the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Kingspan Stadium in Belfast and Thomond Park in Limerick, as well as historic Gaelic football venues, including Croke Park in Dublin and Belfast’s Casement Park. The bid also utilised the presence of Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said, according to the Reuters news agency: “I wouldn't have missed this for the world. This bid represents the hopes and aspirations of the entire island of Ireland.”
Varadkar added that he had answered World Rugby's questions about any potential impact of Brexit and its connected uncertainties, clarifying that the Common Travel Area between the Republic and Northern Ireland would remain in place.
South Africa is targeting a return of the World Cup after the triumphant 1995 edition. Bid officials said South Africa, which staged football’s 2010 Fifa World Cup, has the infrastructure and “destination appeal” for fans and sought to answer questions over political instability.
Lack of government backing ultimately led to the withdrawal of hosting rights from Durban for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. A lack of government backing had also previously clouded South Africa’s ambitions for the 2023 World Cup.
In April 2016, the country’s then Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, banned SA Rugby, Athletics South Africa, Cricket South Africa and Netball South Africa from hosting and bidding for international events over failings in meeting racial transformation targets in their respective sports. This ban was lifted in May and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “As a young democracy we are very robust.
“There is a lot of political debate and some of it might scare people. But what we are all sure about is (ensuring) that the principles and values of our hard-won democracy and constitution will remain stable and lasting.”
A recommendation on the host nation will be made by the Rugby World Cup Board on October 31, before Council votes to select the host union at its meeting on November 15. Beaumont (pictured) said: “It’s clear from the presentations that we have three exceptionally strong, impressive and exciting bids with full government support. Each, I believe, is capable of hosting a superb Rugby World Cup.
“My Council colleagues and I have much to consider and we look forward to the outcome of the thorough and independent evaluation process next month before we consider and select the Rugby World Cup 2023 host union.”