Fun bus delivers Ireland’s Rugby World Cup bid

Detailed submission for 2023 delivered to World Rugby offices in Dublin

The Irish were first. The French were due later before close of business. Maybe that was a good omen, as the Irish Rugby World Cup bid bus pulled up to the World Rugby offices in Dublin.

Kids, balloons, drummers, Joe Schmidt, Rhys Ruddock and more gathered to see the box of documents safely into the offices. Ireland's detailed submission was a straight put-in with no fuss.

Even the story that threatened fire and brimstone on the bid, an emergency measure required in the Dail to ensure governmental support, was roundly shot down.

It was reported that Minister of Tourism, Transport and Sport Shane Ross needed to rush through legislation in order to support Ireland's staging of the 2023 tournament. A matter of urgency, it was called. But not on the fun bus.


No hiccups

“There are absolutely no hiccups. It’s a non-story. It’s not a problem,” said Minister Ross with brimming confidence. “It went to cabinet a little while ago and we are quite ready to put it through the Dail.”

Nor had Ross any concerns about the Irish taxpayer footing any of the cost of the staging of the competition if Ireland wins the right to be host. The decision will be made in November by World Rugby with France and South Africa also bidding.

The tournament fee, which the Irish Government has to pay, is £120 million (€138 million).

“We have very few concerns about that at all,” said Mr Ross on the taxpayers being stuck for the bill. “Absolutely confident that we will fill the gates, that the stadiums will be ready and that everything will be done on time.”

Brian O’Driscoll, a Bid Ambassador for Ireland and no stranger to playing in World Cups, was the figurehead for hope and aspiration, especially with a crowd who continue to see him as a gilded rugby personality.

But the former centre has not totally discarded his pragmatic hat. A home World Cup would represent a great opportunity for Ireland to reach its first semi-final. Surely.

“I think it would be foolish to discount what’s coming in two and half year’s time,” said O’Driscoll. “I’m a big believer in the best opportunity being the next opportunity and that is what Japan is, and I think there is a great chance to get into a World Cup semi-final and break new ground.

“You are playing 20 teams in a World Cup and you don’t have any fortuitous winners of it. You’ve to beat the best to be the best. In Ireland’s case, you look at the group and people will say it’s one of the more favourable draws. Japan and Scotland will also agree with that.

“But the home advantage does count for a lot and you wouldn’t back against any Irish team that is well drilled and well coached playing in the Aviva or Croke Park. I don’t think any teams would relish that.”

Winning bid

The evaluation team is headed by World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, and also consists of Ross Aitken (World Rugby cities and venues manager), Alan Gilpin (head of Rugby World Cup), Linda Hoey (bid manager) and Robert Brophy (World Cup chief financial officer).

Yesterday Ireland submitted the “candidate file”, effectively the bid itself. Between now and July 31st there is a clarification period before all three bidding nations have to submit the signed host agreement and the signed guarantee letters and the various financial commitments, again to the World Rugby Head Office in Dublin.

On September 25th the three bidders will each make a presentation to the World Rugby Council before, in mid-October, the board of the Rugby World Cup Ltd will issue a recommendation to World Rugby Council as to who should be the 2023 hosts. The winning bid will be announced on November 15th in London.

“It’s a unique opportunity to pit yourself at the same time for the same goal against every other team in the world and realise where you are in that pecking order,” said O’Driscoll. “That doesn’t happen in summer tours or November. It only happens at World Cups because everyone is targeting the same thing. It’s the ultimate.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times