Bono and Bob Geldof aid Ireland’s bid to stage 2023 Rugby World Cup

Actor Liam Neeson also supporting to Irish presentation before World Rugby officials

The Irish Rugby World Cup bid will bring Rock 'n' Roll and Hollywood glamour to London later this month as Bono, Bob Geldof and Liam Neeson try to impress upon World Rugby's Council the viability of Ireland staging the 2023 World Cup.

Using video support pieces from the actor and rock stars, the Irish bid team will be given 30 minutes followed by a question and answer session to impress World Rugby officials on September 25th.

In line with the unique experience, culture and an all-island bid, the presentation video pieces includes U2 and a diaspora-related segment involving what the Irish bid team describes as "Geldof's moving rendition of the WB Yeats' poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree".

South Africa and France, who are also hoping to win the rights to stage the event, will be allotted the same amount of time.


"This creative element will involve inputs from Bob Geldof, U2 and Liam Neeson, all of whom have enthusiastically supported our bid," said Kevin Potts, IRFU chief operating officer and 2023 bid director.

“Our presentation will reflect the vision and strong commercial credentials of Ireland’s proposition but also, critically, the creativity of the Irish people, which is what will make Ireland 2023 a tournament like no other.”

A strong impression is critically important in London, although it is not the governing body, World Rugby, which decides what nation will stage the 2023 competition. That is left to the constituent regions and unions, where there are 39 possible votes with a count of 20 securing the World Cup.

World Rugby, however, will receive the evaluation commissions report and independent service provider reports, which can be influential in countries deciding on which bid they will vote for.

The competing nations Ireland, South Africa and France have no voting rights with the final decision of who stages the 2023 event to be announced on November 15th.

'A' list glamour aside Ireland's bid presentation delegation will be spearheaded by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD, together with Minister for Sport, Shane Ross TD, Dick Spring, chairman, Ireland 2023 oversight board and IRFU chief executive Philip Browne.

Three votes

David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, IRFU president Philip Orr, Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland’s bid ambassador, Niamh Briggs, captain of the Ireland women’s team and Kieran McLoughlin, worldwide president and CEO of The Ireland Funds are also included.

In addition, this group will be supported by a team of experts across the critical elements of Ireland’s proposition.

“We have spent more than four years assembling a world class bid and we are now very much looking forward to presenting a truly exciting and compelling vision, full of Irish spirit, to the council on September 25th,” added Potts.

“The diaspora are a very important element of our proposition. We intend to demonstrate just how critical they can be in assisting Ireland and World Rugby create a global stadium of 70 million people . . . . and in ensuring the eyes of the world will be focused on Ireland and rugby for six solid weeks in 2023.”

For the final November decision all of the Tier One rugby nations will have three votes each. They include four of the Six Nations Championship unions (France and Ireland are excluded) along with the Southern Hemisphere nations New Zealand, Australia and Argentina (South Africa are excluded).

Six continental regions have two votes each with Japan, Canada, USA, Georgia and Romania casting one vote each for a total of 39 votes.

Pat Hickey was originally part of the vote team and his experience in the International Olympic Committee of behind the scenes horse trading and garnering votes could have been invaluable.

Geldof, Bono and Taken star Neeson, with his 'particular set of skills' are welcome additions and may capture an alternative mood among the unions of World Rugby.

But it’s in the corridors, hotel rooms and bars where many of the votes are nailed down and lost. The 30-minute presentation in London is the tip of the iceberg.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times