Ireland has emerged from the pack as a front-runner to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup but how much of a chance does the country stand of landing rugby’s biggest event? RTE have put together a piece highlighting the terms of the bid and the likelihood of Ireland succeeding.
Ireland submitted their intentions in June of last year by officially expressing interest in hosting the tournament. Former Tánaiste and Ireland international Dick Spring was named bid chairman and a delegation attended a formal World Rugby workshop at Twickenham in June, which gave each interested union the required information to prepare for their bid campaigns.
The hosts for 2023 Rugby World Cup are not announced until May 2017, almost two years away however the deadline for submission of tender is February 2017.
This permitted the potential host countries the opportunity to analyse the successes and failures of the 2015 World Cup in England and the preparations done for Japan 2019.
That two-year span is crucial in giving the various bidding unions time to assess infrastructure, opportunities to put in place the necessary plans and preparations for stadiums, and it also affords time to the various governments to put a financial structure in place that will enable the event to take place, should a bid prove successful.
For Ireland this time is perhaps even more valuable than it is to its rivals, as there is a cross-border bid between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which will require both governments signing off on the deal. It must be noted that the bid team has highlighted this cross-border initiative as a plus point to the bid.
Ireland also has the benefit of having part hosted the 1991 and 1999 editions of the Rugby World Cup and as such can point to the fact they have previous experience of hosting a version of the tournament, albeit a reduced one.
The Four countries bidding to host RWC 2023
There are three rivals to the Irish bid. From the northern hemisphere, France (solo hosts in 2007 and joint hosts in 1991 and 1999) and Italy, who have never hosted the event but who have twice hosted the World Rugby Under-20 Championship, in 2011 and also 2015.
From the southern hemisphere, South Africa are the sole bidders.
Who are favourites?
Given that up until 2015, the hosts have alternated between northern and southern hemispheres, South Africa’s bid appears to be in a strong position. 2019 will also be held in northern hemisphere Japan, thus breaking the cycle, and strengthening the southern union’s desire to bring the event south. There is an argument to be made that Japan 2019 might set a different precedent, which could see every second RWC set in an emerging rugby nation, before reverting back to a rugby heartland. That is for World Rugby and the various unions to negotiate.
The voting at the World Rugby Council meeting will decide the hosts, and also other administrative matters, and it is in this political battle ground the bid will be won or lost.
Ireland also have the option of backing South Africa’s bid in 2023 in the hope of securing South Africa’s backing for Ireland for a potential bid to host the 2027 event, although that would be a background story that the public would likely never hear about. As is stands, South Africa and Ireland are going head-to-head for 2023.
And this is where it becomes a political matter. Ireland must decide whether to hedge their bets on this strategy or to fully back their 2023 bid for the event. Spring has previously stated that Ireland already have 40% of the vote for 2023, which would indicate a level of confidence at least.
From a cultural and sporting view, RWC brings a public relations and marketing spotlight on a country not only for the six weeks of the tournament, but also during the build-up period spanning six years.
An interesting battle lies ahead; a battle which Ireland is very much at the heart of. No doubt there isn’t a country more deserving.