Ireland’s Rugby World Cup bid was on a par with South Africa

Redacted section of controversial review shows Irish bid matched commercial offer and fee

The Irish Times has learned that Ireland's overall financial bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup closely matched South Africa's commercial offer and tournament fee.

These figures are contained in the redacted section of World Rugby’s technical review released last Tuesday, the contents of which were made known to the newspaper.

The impact of the report, which recommends South Africa host the tournament, has been heavily criticised by both French and Irish delegations ahead of the November 15th World Rugby Council vote.

World Rugby deny they only gave the bidding countries a few weeks' notice of their intention to release the report – and not just a recommendation – into the public domain.


Before the damning assessment of Irish stadiums and technological failings, the IRFU anticipated at least 16 of the necessary 20 votes required to secure the tournament.

French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte highlighted perceived "lies" "negligence" and "amateurism" in World Rugby's recommendation while Ireland's bid chairman, Dick Spring, expressed "amazement" at the "narrow, operational and theoretical approach" of the report in a letter to World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

IRFU employed Deloitte to go through the report before submitting a response document highlighting inconsistencies that led to the South African and French bids scoring higher in key areas.

"There were surprises in the report," said Kevin Potts, head of the Irish bid. "Take Paírc Uí Chaoimh. It has been built and active since August. We sent World Rugby footage of the stadium yet commentary in the report inferred it was not yet built and required significant upgrade."

The French Federation also sent a 50-page report to World Rugby offices in Dublin criticising the technical review led by Alan Gilpin, the head of Rugby World Cup.

The problem now for both French and Irish bids is perception. New Zealand chief executive Steve Tew has already publicly stated they will support South Africa's bid because of the report.

Clear third

“Our match venue proposal was not designed to compete with big stadia built for soccer World Cups outside cities,” Potts said of Ireland’s bid finishing a clear third in the stadium category (where South Africa received a perfect score).

“We are offering sustainable sporting arenas in an ideal capacity mix – both rugby and GAA – in the hearts of towns and communities that will be full of passionate fans that can walk to and enjoy a genuine festival atmosphere pre- and post-match, rather than being stuck on trains for hours.

“That resonated in our travels around the world. Unions such as Argentina, Italy, New Zealand, North America, Asia, the smaller unions and many more got that and liked it.”

The Irish bid also fell down on technological failings.

“Yes, some of the stadia do not have updated technology but we planned these in our upgrade plans,” Potts continued, “But what I was surprised at was the apparent loss of marks for not specifically naming a technology partner. We were not required to do this. The other bidders must have named one.”

However, a major global tech company wrote to Rugby World Cup supporting Ireland's 2023 bid.

"If the World Cup comes to Ireland they stated they would do everything in their power to ensure the fan experience would be like no other."

Ireland scored the same marks on security despite France having only ended a state of emergency on November 1st and widespread crime concerns in South Africa. The Irish bid, the report stated, focused primarily on terrorist attacks.

Dow Jones Sports Intelligence provided “independent assessment of the political and economic climate in each host country”.

The IRFU are also struggling to understand losing marks in the sustainability section after links to the untapped US market was not accepted as a positive with World Rugby stating the union showed “little focus on working in partnership with Rugby Europe or any of the other regional associations.”

During the process World Rugby had to instruct the bidding nations to stop promising TV rights and other agreements to voting regions. This was not directed at the Irish bid.

The Sports Consultancy firm – co-founded by Robert Datnow and Angus Buchanan – had a significant input into the technical report.

“The whole cross island aspect of our bid resonated very powerfully with every union we met,” Potts added.

“None of the non-technical aspects of our bid were reflected in the report. We hope council members consider these as that’s what makes Ireland 2023 different from the French or South African bids. We have exceeded all of the technical requirements and RWCL confirm Ireland can deliver a World Cup, but there are other issues to consider that count and we will be using the full resources of the union to point this out to voters in the next 10 days. We have a duty to do so to the bid and the process.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent