Ireland in three-horse race for 2023 Rugby World Cup

South African and French bids also ratified by World Rugby

World Rugby has officially ratified Ireland's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup along with those of France and South Africa. The Italian Rugby Federation withdrew from the process last week after failing to win the backing of their government.

The sport’s global governing body that each union demonstrate within its application that it could meet key criteria critical to a viable bid by the September 1st deadline. The broad brush-stokes headings wise, include finance, venues, tournament window and government support.

South Africa (1995) and France (2007) have previously staged World Cups while Ireland has previously hosted pool fixtures, quarter-finals and a semi-final. Presumably the South African Rugby Union (SARU) is confident of talking their way around the ban imposed by the country’s Sports Minister on Fikile Mbalula.

He decreed last April that the South African governing bodies of rugby, cricket, athletics and netball could not bid to host major tournaments. This was a punishment for a failure to meet what was described as “transformation” targets they agreed with the government on greater integration of non-white players into the national sporting teams.


An Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Sports Transformation‚ chaired by Dr Willie Basson‚ which recommended the sanction based on its findings‚ will review the situation in the coming months and make a presentation to the South African government early next year.

SA Rugby went ahead and submitted documents to bid for the right to host RWC 2023 on September 1st‚ the deadline for submissions. But the bid is dependent on Mbalula lifting the sanction.

World Rugby commissioned a specialist and independent technical review group to review the applications.

The application phase was the second stage of a detailed three-phase host selection process following an initial education phase, designed to provide prospective bid unions and governments with all the information required to determine to proceed with a bid.

The candidate process officially opens on November 1st, and the Rugby World Cup 2023 host union will be selected by the World Rugby Council in November 2017.

Dick Spring, Chairman, Ireland's RWC 2023 Bid Oversight Board, said: "We very much welcome the formal announcement from World Rugby that Ireland's application to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 has progressed to the final phase.

‘We note that World Rugby will officially open the final process on November 1st and we look forward to detailing Ireland’s approach to this final phase of the process in the weeks following that announcement.

“Significant work has already been undertaken in the preparation of Ireland’s bid and this will continue apace as we enter this next phase.

“Given the level of support to date from all quarters including Governments, North and South, sporting organisations, in particular the GAA, and indeed the general public, I remain convinced that Ireland can mount a winning bid for what is one of the great occasions on the world sporting calendar.”

Japan will lost the 2019 World Cup and will be charged with trying to improve a very successful tournament in Britain last year, that set a number of records including the most commercially successful, the best attended and the most watched.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer