France win member unions’ vote to stage Rugby World Cup in 2023
By Damian Dolan
Ireland have missed out on hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup with member unions instead voting to award the tournament to France.
South Africa had been favourites to stage the prestigious event following publication of the independent evaluation report on the bids of the three competing nations.
Ireland were eliminated after the first round of voting having gained just eight votes. France received 18 and South Africa 13.
Round two of voting saw France receive 24 votes and South Africa 15.
It now remains to be seen if the IRFU will bring a legal challenge against World Rugby, having been very vocal in its criticism of the report and its marking, which favoured South Africa’s bid.
The IRFU wrote to World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper to voice its concerns over the independent evaluation report. The Irish Times reported sources last week as saying that legal action is among the options being considered.
France has also been critical of the report for containing “blatant errors”.
Ireland challenged four key areas in the report which awarded significantly higher marks to South Africa, and which ultimately ranked South Africa at nearly 79%, three percent higher than France in second place and six percent higher than Ireland.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 14, 2017
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne wrote to all rugby unions expressing Ireland’s concerns over the marks.
“There’s a fine line between whinging and having justifiable concerns round the accuracy of what is contained in a report that World Rugby has placed so much store and weight‚” Browne told The Irish Examiner at the weekend.
“The answer is it [the outcome] is finely balanced amongst the three bids. That’s the fact. We owe it to ourselves‚ the Government and people of Ireland‚ who have been very enthusiastic‚ to fight to the end for it.”
World Rugby responded to Ireland’s concerns with a statement, which read: “World Rugby can confirm that it has addressed in full, clarification requests by the Rugby World Cup 2023 host candidates and council members.
“The ability to submit clarification requests following the publication of the recommendation and comprehensive report on 31 October was agreed and permitted within the host selection process operated by World Rugby.
“These clarifications have been addressed with significant supporting detail, and have been shared with the host candidates and World Rugby council.
“The comprehensive and objective responses reflect the transparent principles at the heart of the independently audited process.
“They do not impact on the detail or outcomes of the evaluation report nor on the subsequent recommendation.”
Browne had previously told The Irish Times: “We felt we have had no choice but to rebut some of the inaccuracies in the report. We have spent five years working on this and have spent a significant amount of money, time and effort on this bid.”
The four key areas are stadia and ticketing, with Browne’s letter pointing to ‘starkly empty stadia’ for significant matches. In contrast, Ireland’s bid makes a commitment to assuring capacity attendances at all lower demand pool matches.
South Africa was previously stripped of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban after failing to meet commitments, but Browne questions why the reasons behind this decision were not fully addressed in the report.
The third key area relates to security with all three countries ranked the same, despite South Africa’s high crime rate and the recent terrorist attacks in France.
The IRFU’s final concern relates to government guarantees over the minimum £120 million tournament fee.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont responded to Ireland’s concerns by saying: “Following the publication of the Rugby World Cup 2023 recommendation and evaluation report, I would like to thank the host candidates for their feedback.
“In order for council to have appropriate time to consider all the materials, the window for dialogue is now closed. We now look forward to council making its decision in London on 15 November.”
In Dublin to witness South Africa’s 38-3 loss to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux backed the recommendation of the independent evaluation report.
He said: “We still have a vote to come on the 15th of November different people have different opinions but they have a fiduciary responsibility at that meeting to act accordingly‚” Roux said.
“We hope that sanity will prevail because an independent process is there for a very specific reason – to keep it independent.
“It would now be very difficult for any federation to go against this independent outcome because it would laugh in the face of transparency and process.”