With the race to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup coming to a head, Darragh McArdle looks at Ireland’s bid and evaluates its chances of coming out on top.
It’s hard to imagine for many people that Ireland are now well on their way to the very real possibility of hosting the 2023 Men’s Rugby World Cup. Just fifteen years ago, this would simply have been impossible. Our country’s largest stadia only played host to sports affiliated with the GAA and our national rugby and football stadium was last refurbished in the 1970s.
Fast forward to today, and Ireland are in quite a commanding position to host the tenth Rugby World Cup which also marks the 200th anniversary of the invention of the sport. Ireland has part-hosted the event on two previous occasions (1991 & 1999), but this would be our first attempt at holding the entire event ourselves.
All the stops have been pulled out with A-list celebrities, Liam Neeson and Bob Geldof enlisted to support the bid. Ireland’s campaign to date has been grounded in showcasing the history, beauty, and culture of Ireland, along with it’s readiness to welcome the rest of the world to our shores.
Ireland is known for its passion, heart and determination but is this small island really “Ready For The World?” Despite not getting the results many would have hoped for at the Women’s World Cup, Ireland certainly did a stellar job of hosting.
Ireland’s campaign to date has been grounded in showcasing the history, beauty, and culture of Ireland, along with it’s readiness to welcome the rest of the world to our shores.
The tournament was deemed a huge success and a massive milestone for the sport. In what was a dry-run for us, it went off without a hitch. Yes, it was on a smaller scale than what we would expect from 2023 but nonetheless it went off without a hitch.
As Croke Park having opened its doors to rugby and soccer during the reconstruction of Lansdowne Road, it is a perfect fit to host both the opening and closing ceremonies along with the final. Looking beyond that, the Aviva Stadium is ideal for the semi and quarter-finals, while Páirc Uí Chaoimh is also suitable for hosting big games. Furthermore, Casement Park, Pearse Stadium, MacHale Park, and Thomond Park could all be tasked with hosting the first round of matches.
Despite our stadium capacities meeting all the requirements set out by World Rugby this is one of our biggest weaknesses in our bid. To put it into perspective, the only stadium in our bid with a capacity of more than 52,000 is Croke Park, whereas in England had six which surpassed that figure in 2015.
The French bid has been hampered by the decision of French President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw from France’s delegation team.
The two countries that stand in the way of Ireland holding its first-ever Rugby World Cup are France and South Africa. Having hosted the World Cup in 2007, it would be a surprising decision should it be awarded to France. Furthermore, their bid has been hampered by the decision of French President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw from France’s delegation team. To make matters even worse for Les Blues, the FFR were forced to make an apology for having sent out a tweet suggesting that they were leading the race to secure the 2023 World Cup.
With France’s campaign being marred by Macron’s sudden u-turn, South Africa is seen as being the main nation standing in the way of a successful Irish bid. South Africa has promised hotel prices will be at half the price of its two competitors, will generate the highest estimated revenue for World Rugby. Not to mention the history of playing host to two previous World Cups as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Everything appears to point to South Africa as being the ideal host.
Yet, corruption in the African state is rife and the South African Government attempted to ban their rugby federation from bidding due to a lack of opportunities for black players. This ban was only lifted following last-minute talks between the sports minister and South Africa Rugby, allowing them to submit their bid.
With political controversies tarnishing both the French and South African bids as Ireland stays scandal-free, there is no doubt that the IRFU are licking their lips at the prospect of hosting the tournament. With just over three weeks to go until the winning nation is announced, it remains to be seen whether Ireland have done enough in the eyes of World Rugby to host this prestigious tournament.