Ireland’s hopes of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup have been dealt a significant blow.
World Rugby’s technical review group has recommended South Africa as the hosts for the tournament, and France’s bid has also been rated as superior to Ireland’s.
The World Rugby Council will vote on the three bids on November 15th (with 20 votes out of 39 required to win the bid), but South Africa is now the overwhelming favourite to host the sport’s biggest tournament in six years time.
Ireland achieved a score of 72.25%, placing them behind France (75.88%) and South Africa (78.97%).
Each host bid was judged on five key areas – finance and tournament guarantees; venues and host cities; infrastructure; vision and hosting concept, and organisation and schedule.
The IRFU pumped €4 million into the project, included high-profile figures such as Liam Neeson and Brian O’Driscoll, and submitted a 900 page document to support the bid.
The technical review group – made up of a panel of over 20 experts – has listed Ireland’s stadium issues as the main reason for ranking the country at the bottom of the three bidding nations, while South Africa crucially received full marks in this category.
The official 220-page report claims that stadiums in Ireland “require considerable work which creates a higher risk than venues that are already in place.”
“The amount of upgrade work required introduces complexity and therefore a significant risk factor that is not is not inherent in the other two bids,” it stated.
“Parc Ui Chaoimh (complete August 2017), Pearse Stadium and Fitzgerald Stadium require a significant level of overlay which is flagged as a risk, given the amount of work required to bring these venues up to RWC standard.
“Casement Park is scheduled for redevelopment by 2020 and will also require a significant level of overlay. At time of writing, we understand that this venue is still subject to final planning approval.”
The report has led Bernard Laporte, president of the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR), says France and South Africa will now go head-to-head to host the prestigious competition. France were in top position in terms of the financial offer and guarantees.
“As of today, a final is taking shape in which France and South Africa will go head to head,” he said.
However, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne says Ireland are “100% still in the race,” despite today’s blow, which has seen Ireland’s odds of winning the bid drift to 7/1.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” he told RTÉ Sport.
“A huge amount of effort and hard work has been put into this bid. We certainly felt we were in with a good chance. When you strip it all away and take out the issue of the stadia, all three bids are very close indeed.
“This really is a two-stage process. This has just been the conclusion of a technical evaluation, which is somewhat binary in the way it approaches things.