By Fiona O’Brien
Ireland can count on the support of British Prime Minister Theresa May as it bids to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed Mr May’s support for the bid, which she gave in a letter to the Rugby World Cup organisation giving the United Kingdom’s support for the bid.
Mr Varadkar was in London as Ireland, France and South Africa presented their bids to stage the tournament on Monday (25 September).
“The main reason I’m speaking to Theresa May is around Brexit and also restoring the institutions in the north,” said Mr Varadkar.
“However, she has written to World Rugby, supporting our bid, and assuring them that the United Kingdom government is behind it too.
“And I’m very grateful for the fact that she’s done that.”
Mr Varadkar was joined in London by Ireland rugby hero Brian O’Driscoll, the country’s Sports Minister Shane Ross, as well as IRFU delegates, in delivering the bid.
The 30-minute presentation, which showed how choosing Ireland would benefit the development of rugby worldwide as well as guarantee one of the best tournament experiences ever, also saw the team drew on famous Irish faces outside of the sporting world to help its cause.
The presentation included video support pieces from U2 and a diaspora related piece involving Bob Geldof’s moving rendition of the WB Yeats’ poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’.
Following the presentation Mr Varadkar said that the bid represented the hopes and aspirations of the entire island of Ireland.
“It presents World Rugby with a compelling proposition, that combines all the advantages of a traditional Rugby market with the many opportunities of a new territory,” he said.
“This bid is grounded in certainty, through the unparalleled support of Ireland’s jurisdictions north and south, and the traditions of the IRFU. Its success will be our total focus and will carry the support of Ireland’s 70 million strong diaspora.
“The 2023 Rugby World Cup will be a national priority.”
Last week Kevin Potts, Tournament Bid Director, and Philip Browne, IRFU CEO, met with media in the Irish Embassy in London to talk through the bid.
They say that an unprecedented investment from Ireland’s government for the £120 million tournament fee, as well as financial backing from Irish American businesses, meant that they were confident they would guarantee the biggest profit for World Rugby, compared to the bids from other two hopefuls France and South Africa.
Kevin Potts said that Ireland’s bid combines all the advantages of a traditional Rugby market with the many opportunities of a new one, through unparalleled Government support, the availability and suitability of sold out, iconic stadiums set in the heart of cities and towns, and Ireland’s unrivalled access, through our diaspora, to the North American market.
“A key part of our vision is to support the growth of rugby worldwide – by using the Rugby World Cup in Ireland to connect with the wonderful support of the Irish diaspora worldwide, particularly some 40 million in North America alone,” he said.
“Through the diaspora and Ireland’s existing, proven platforms with them, this tournament will set new records for travelling fans and connect with new audiences for the game internationally.”
The pair said that the backing of the government meant that Ireland could account for affordable tickets to attract the everyday person, which are 30 per cent cheaper than were at England 2015.
The tournament is expected to attract 445,000 visitors to Ireland, and bring €1.5 billion to the economy.
So far they have accounted for 2.2 million tickets, and budgeted for selling 2 million. Many of the venues on the long-list are Gaelic grounds after collaboration with the GAA.
“Ireland’s commitment is underlined by the fact that Rugby World Cup 2023, from the turn of the decade, will be our sole focus in terms of a major international sporting event, ensuring no distractions for key host authorities and no competition for the attention of Irish Sports fans and sponsors,” said Phillip Browne.
Ready for the world
“Ireland is truly ready for the world – ready to host the world and ready to promote rugby throughout the world.”
The three presentations were heard in London today and the final decision will be announced, following a vote involving the constituent Unions and associations of World Rugby, on 15 November.