South Africa set to host Rugby World Cup 2023 after board recommendation
November 1, 2017 09:46 am
South Africa is set to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup after a recommendation from the sport’s governing body which identified the Rainbow Nation as the “clear leader” ahead of France and Ireland.
To some surprise, it won the unanimous approval of the World Rugby board after scoring highest in an exhaustive evaluation report and is expected to be ratified when the World Rugby council votes on 15 November.
It is a devastating blow for Ireland, bidding to host the tournament for the first time and the odds-on favourite, only to score lowest (72.25%) in the evaluation report, which appraised each bid in five main criteria. France, which had pledged to prevent the “death of world rugby” with its promise of lucrative profits for the governing body, was second (75.88%).
South Africa, however, came out on top in the evaluation report in three of the five categories, for a total score of 78.97%, with its proposed host cities and venues, relying heavily on those used during the 2010 football World Cup, proving pivotal. France emerged on top in two of categories – including finances – while damningly for Ireland, it failed to do so in any.
France and Ireland released bullish statements, refusing to admit defeat, and as this is the first bidding process of its kind, there is no precedent for how binding the recommendation is. Considering the process was chosen in the interests of transparency, however, it would not reflect well on the World Rugby council if South Africa’s bid is not rubber-stamped next month.
The three candidate nations do not get a vote but there are 39 in total – the winner requiring a simple majority. “The comprehensive and independently scrutinised evaluation reaffirmed that we have three exceptional bids but it also identified South Africa as a clear leader,” said the World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont. It would be the second time South Africa has hosted the World Cup and when presenting its bid to World Rugby’s council in September the country harked back to the transformative effects of its 1995 win when Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springboks jersey, famously handed Francois Pienaar the Web Ellis Cup.
The implicit message was clear, however. On the pitch the Springboks are in a downward spiral, with an ongoing player exodus to Europe and Japan, but with the British & Irish Lions also visiting in 2021, there is hope a successful bid can spark a revival. “Hosting Rugby World Cup 2023 will be a massive boost for our country as well as the game of rugby,” said South Africa Rugby’s chief executive, Jurie Roux, on Tuesday. “We trust now that the World Rugby Council will follow through by voting to confirm what the experts have identified: that a South African Rugby World Cup in 2023 is the best result for rugby.”
South Africa’s bid scored the highest in terms of venues and host cities, organisation and schedule, as well as infrastructure, which can be considered relevant after the organiser of the Japan 2019 World Cup recently received a slap on the wrist from Rugby World Cup’s tournament director for slow progress. Significantly, the South Africa bid also successfully allayed fears over political and economic stability.
France did, however, earn the highest scores in terms of vision and concept – despite hosting the tournament as recently as 2007 – as well as finances. Its federation president, Bernard Laporte, said: “As of today a final is taking shape in which France and South Africa will go head to head. A new match is beginning, and will play out until the sovereign vote on 15 November. In its assessment report, the [board] placed France 2023 in top position on the main criterion: the financial offer and the guarantees. This prime position buttresses our strategy, which consists of securing the record-high financial resources [40% more than in 2015] needed for the development of global rugby. Now, we need to reassure the voting federations on the quality of our infrastructures and our stadia.”
Ireland was marked down heavily on infrastructure and organisation, with the report highlighting concerns over transport and technology. Dick Spring, the chairman of its 2023 bid oversight board, said: “This is certainly not the end of the road. We absolutely believe Ireland can secure the tournament for 2023. Our team will compete to the final whistle as we bid to turn our historic bid plans into reality. We still have confidence that the council members will place their trust in Ireland to deliver an outstanding 2023 Rugby World Cup.”
If South Africa’s recommendation is rubber-stamped, it would be the first time successive World Cups have been staged outside Europe and considering three in a row is unlikely, it would appear to damage Argentina’s chances of hosting the tournament in 2027.
- The Guardian