Ireland Planning Bid To Host 2023 Rugby World Cup For First Time In History
Ireland Sports Minister Leo Varadkar said on Monday that his country will "consider launching a bid" for the 2023 Rugby World Cup this week, "hoping a politically-symbolic proposal will win it the right to host the event for the first time," according to Padraic Halpin of REUTERS. The "ambitious effort would see games played on both sides of the Irish border," as unlike football, the national team is an "all-Ireland selection, and would represent another major step" since a peace agreement in '98 mostly ended "three decades of violence in Northern Ireland." Ireland has been mulling the idea for more than a year, "looking to replicate the successful hosting by similarly populated New Zealand" in '11. Varadkar said he will "seek approval from cabinet colleagues on Tuesday." Varadkar: "It's probably the biggest event a country like Ireland could do, we're too small for the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup and for that reason it would engender enormous national pride. The second thing is that even during the very difficult times of the Troubles, rugby in Ireland was a unifying sport. For us in Ireland, it would just be a symbol of how far we've come from the bad times to the better times now." Varadkar added that it could "potentially boost the ailing economy" by as much as €800M ($1.1B) with hundreds of thousands of fans "coming to the country, according to a report prepared for government by consultancy firm Deloitte & Touche" (REUTERS, 11/18). In Dublin, Stephen Collins reported the Gaelic Athletic Association's decision at its last congress "to make its grounds available for the rugby world cup has given a huge boost to the bid." Major "rugby venues such as the Aviva, the RDS, Thomond Park and Ravenhill would not be enough to host an event like the world cup but the addition of GAA stadiums has made it feasible." A government source said, "It is eminently feasible to hold the event on the island of Ireland. We have easily enough hotel accommodation and the transport infrastructure is first class" (IRISH TIMES, 11/18).
SEAN FITZPATRICK BACKING BID: Also in Dublin, Cian Tracey reported former New Zealand rugby player Sean Fitzpatrick "has backed Ireland's bid to host the 2023 World Cup." Fitzpatrick "believes that Ireland is well equipped to host the prestigious event." Fitzpatrick: "Ireland has got the people and the passion to host a World Cup. New Zealand was told they didn't have the stadiums, but we made it work and I'm sure Ireland has good stadiums." Former rugby player Keith Wood "also lended his support to the bid, but admits a lot needs to happen before Ireland can be realistic about hosting the World Cup." Wood said, "The IRFU [Irish Rugby Football Union] absolutely wouldn't be able to do it on their own. It can't be an ego thing; it has to be right for Ireland. If something like the Rugby World Cup coming to Ireland could be enough of an income generator that we need... it has to stack up. And we need as much inward tourism investment as we can get. We've got to aim for big things" (IRISH INDEPENDENT, 11/18).