Irish bid to host 2023 Rugby World Cup gathers momentum

Ministers from Dublin and Belfast met in Armagh today to look into bringing the tournament to Ireland

The Aviva stadium which would host Rugby World Cup matches in 2023 if the Irish bid is successful. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

The Aviva stadium which would host Rugby World Cup matches in 2023 if the Irish bid is successful. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 14:01

Ministers from Dublin and Belfast met in Armagh today to set up a working group to advise on the prospects of bringing the 2023 Rugby World Cup to the island of Ireland.

The Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar and junior Minister Michael Ring discussed the viability of attracting the World Cup to Ireland in nine years time with the North’s Sinn Fein Sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin and the DUP Enterprise minister Arlene Foster.

While it is expected that the main opposition to hosting the tournament would come from South Africa, which has already staged the event in 1995, the four Ministers appeared confident that Ireland could put a strong joint bid together.

“It’s still very early days, but the four of us believe that Ireland has what it takes to host a cracking World Cup,” said Mr Varadkar.

The group will be made up of the key bodies associated with preparing a successful bid and it will report back to both administrations in a few months for agreement on moving forward to prepare a formal bid for the 2023 World Cup.

The ministers said Ireland was developing the necessary infrastructure and with the assistance of bodies such as the GAA would be in a position to stage the 2023 World Cup.

Stadiums where games could be played include the Aviva and Croke Park in Dublin, Thomond Park in Limerick and Ravenhill and GAA’s Casement Park in Belfast.

They also said that holding events such the Special Olympics World summer games in Dublin in 2003 and the World Police and Fire Games in Belfast last year demonstrated that Ireland had the capability and experience for such a major undertaking.

DUP Enterprise Minister Ms Foster said experience was being developed all the time. “As we already know, sport is an incredibly powerful sales tool that has the power to attract thousands of international visitors. Northern Ireland hosted the hugely successful Irish Open in 2012 and this year, La Grande Partenza or Big Start of the Giro d’Italia will take place in May.”

“Hosting events such as this provides us with a tremendous opportunity to grow tourism, boost visitor spend, and stimulate the continued growth of the Northern Ireland economy,” she added.

Sinn Fein sports Minister Ms Ní Chuilín said the island of Ireland has a lot to offer the global rugby family and there would be a lot of benefits to be gained by hosting such a prestigious event.

“The Executive is investing £110 million in upgrading stadia in Belfast which includes the redevelopment of Ravenhill. While we would have world class venues to host the rugby world cup, there is a lot of work required to get us into a position to make a successful bid.”

Junior minister Mr Ring said an event of such a scale would not only have a great benefit for rugby but would also improve the profile of what sport can do for Ireland. “We all witnessed the massive boost to the national mood that was provided by the London Olympics. The Rugby World Cup is probably the largest event we could ever host on our own on the island and I would hope it would have a similar impact here,” he said.

“Sport is a great unifier, it brings people together and large events like this can also bring about a great sense of pride,” added Mr Ring.