Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 10 No. 26
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

France Wins Hosting Rights For 2023 Rugby World Cup Over South Africa, Ireland

World Rugby and its national federations voted in London on Wednesday for France to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, according to Richard Escot of L’ÉQUIPE. France beat South Africa in the second round of voting; Ireland was eliminated in the first round. It will be France’s second time hosting the event, having previously held it in ’07. A World Rugby report published at the end of October placed France in second place behind South Africa as the favorite to host the World Cup. The “intense lobbying” from supporters of the French bid, particularly focused on the marketing and financial aspects, led to the news on Wednesday. The 2023 RWC will take place in nine stadiums across France:

  • Stade de France, St.-Denis
  • Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
  • Groupama Stadium, Lyon-Décines
  • Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Villeneuve-d’Ascq
  • Matmut Atlantique, Bordeaux
  • Stade de La Beaujoire, Nantes
  • Stadium de Toulouse
  • Allianz Riviera, Nice
  • Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, St. Étienne (L’ÉQUIPE, 11/15).
HOW FRANCE WON: In Paris, David Opoczynski reported in World Rugby’s October evaluation, the audit companies placed France ahead of South Africa and Ireland in the financial sector. With that, "France found the decisive argument." Despite having been placed behind the South African bid in the review of infrastructure, the French bid emphasized the stadium and hotel renovations made ahead of Euro 2016 to World Rugby. French Rugby Federation (FFR) President Bernard Laporte and France 2023 Bid Dir Claude Atcher also spent the last six months "trying to convince voters" (LE PARISIEN, 11/15). L’ÉQUIPE reported in its proposal, the French bid committee budgeted €300M ($354M) to host the event, including €150M ($177M) in royalties to be paid to World Rugby, plus €150M for organizational costs. The French committee estimated €500M ($589.7M) in revenue (L’ÉQUIPE, 11/15).  

'INCREDIBLY DISAPPOINTED': In London, Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh reported Irish bid ambassador and former rugby int'l Brian O'Driscoll suggested Ireland will need to re-evaluate its bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup "after the country finished third of three candidates with just eight votes." Thirty-nine votes "were up for grabs," with three apparently promised to Ireland by England. Just five others came Ireland’s way, "meaning at least one of Wales and Scotland did not support their Celtic neighbours." O'Driscoll: "The people we felt were 50/50 didn't go with us and we'll have to go back and see why that was the case." Overall, there was a "muted sense of disappointment" from the Irish bid team, with Irish Rugby Football Union CEO Philip Browne admitting the “writing was on the wall” after South Africa and France were placed above Ireland in World Rugby’s independent bid evaluation report two weeks ago. O'Driscoll: "It's incredibly disappointing, a lot of work has gone into it, but it wasn't our day. Congratulations to France, they almost won it in the first round and I'm sure they'll host a great tournament in 2023" (LONDON TIMES, 11/15). RTÉ reported Browne said, "For almost six years we have focused passionately on bringing a Rugby World Cup to Ireland in 2023. ... It is not to be. Our race is now run. Today belongs to France. They have our warmest congratulations and very best wishes for a magnificent Rugby World Cup in 2023." Bid Chair Dick Spring said that Ireland "should be proud of their efforts." Spring: "Ireland's bid is one of which all involved can be extremely proud. It has been richly rewarding to witness, and be inspired by, the fulsome cooperation between the many individuals and groups, North and South, who have given so freely to our common quest" (RTÉ, 11/15).

TOO SOON TO TELL: In Dublin, Malachy Clerkin reported Browne said that it was "too soon to say whether Ireland would ever bid for the tournament again." Browne "effectively admitted it was a non-runner." He said, "Not under these parameters." World Rugby would need to "re-evaluate what it wants from a World Cup for smaller countries such as Ireland, or indeed New Zealand and others, to ever countenance hosting a World Cup henceforth." Browne said, "World Rugby and RWC need to decide what sort of a tournament they want. And, yes, of course there is the commercial imperative but that shouldn't be everything" (IRISH TIMES, 11/15).

'OLD BOYS CLUB': RTÉ reported former South African player Joel Stransky labeled World Rugby an "old boys club" and questioned the process to select the 2023 World Cup host. Stransky said, "We are all bitterly disappointed and quite shocked. One has to ask the question, why has the vote gone against the recommendation when most of the unions said they would vote with the recommendation? It's bitterly disappointing and quite surprising. You can only imagine the lobbying that has gone on behind the scenes and the one thing that it does fix in my mind is that it is an old boys club still making decisions at World Rugby." Former Springbok Ashwin Willemse believes the recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Board "should be binding." Willemse said, "What made South Africa the preferred host was their bid, nothing more. Apples were (compared with) apples and we came out on top. So, how do you win a bid, on the basis of what?" Former South African captain John Smit said, "That is devastating news, the joys of a secret ballot" (RTÉ, 11/15).

NO CHALLENGE: South Africa Rugby CEO Jurie Roux ruled out any suggestions that his organization might challenge the vote. Roux: "We have said throughout that we would honor both both the letter and the spirit of the process and we now consider the 2023 bidding process closed. However, in the feedback sessions I am sure we will be recommending to the World Rugby Council that the verdict of the evaluation committee become binding" (SA Rugby). 

NOT A GOOD LOOK: In London, Owen Slot wrote France won because it was the "country with the biggest cheque book." France promised to "share riches with the game's leading nations that Ireland and South Africa simply could not match." World Rugby was "left humiliated because it had fully endorsed South Africa as the best bid." The "surplus the French had guaranteed" World Rugby was £350M ($461M). Compare that to the £162M that England handed over after the 2015 World Cup, or the £270M ($355.6M) that Ireland and South Africa were offering for '23, and the "reasons behind this decision become clear" (LONDON TIMES, 11/15). In London, Mick Cleary wrote the credibility of this process for World cup has "now been called into serious question." The votes in the first round of voting were France 18, South Africa 13 and Ireland 8. Ireland "dropped out and the delegates voted again with France trumping South Africa by 24 votes to 15." France was "always hell-bent on taking the fight to the final whistle." It was World Rugby that "initiated the backed" the evaluation report. It was the World Rugby "imprimatur on it." It was "far more than a mere box-ticking exercise, merely a guide to help delegates make up their minds." It has "far more status than that." Questions "will have to be asked of the governing body." Its credibility "is at stake" (TELEGRAPH, 11/15).