Inside Track with John McIntyre
IT’S a shame Ireland’s ambitious bid to host the 2023 rugby World Cup bit the dust as expected last week. It would have been a marvellous event for the country, attracting up to 450,000 visitors, and generating millions of euro in hospitality and tourism revenue.
Ireland would have risen to the challenge too of hosting the month-long tournament. Despite the fears of World Rugby’s technical group, our stadiums would have been brought up to the required standard and we’d also provide a heartfelt welcome to visitors that mightn’t have come so innately to France or South Africa.
Though nobody associated with the Irish bid were counting their chickens ahead of the Evaluation Report commissioned by World Rugby, to finish last of the three countries hoping to host the 2023 tournament was a grevious setback and one that was unrecoverable from. Up to that point, Ireland were favourites to strike a huge blow for small nations, but instead the wind was completely taken from their sails.
In the intervening fortnight, Dick Spring and the other members of the Irish 2023 bid team lobbied hard against those findings, insisting that worries about their stadiums being not up to scratch and connectivity were over-played, while the country wasn’t being given enough credit for the prospect of providing a security safe tournament.
South Africa, favoured by the Evaluation Report, was expected to be rubber-stamped as the host nation in England last week, but the outcome of the World Rugby Council meeting left the Springboks mulling over a fourth failed bid since last hosting the competition in 1995. Instead, France got the seal of approval in a final vote off (24-15).
Ireland had also to lick their wounds after only polling eight votes on the first count and were particularly bitter that only England of the home countries backed their bid. Scotland knew a World Cup hosted by France would generate more revenue for the competing countries, while Wales supported South Africa as their top official Gareth Davies was part of the initial evaluation process.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.