Bid Battle Gets Tough

One week ago we were reflecting on the blow of Ireland coming third in the evaluation report for the hosting of Rugby World Cup 2023. One week from today the 39 votes of the Council of World Rugby will be cast and a final decision made.

In sport it is always worth battling all the way to the final whistle and while both Ireland and South Africa will do that on the pitch for Saturday’s Guinness Series clash at the Aviva Stadium, the team behind Ireland’s bid are doing likewise with a detailed exchange of letters questioning aspects of the report.

The Irish Times reports this morning on the latest letter from IRFU CEO Philip Browne to his counterpart at World Rugby Brett Gosper questioning whether there had been expert independent valuation of both security issues in the three bid countries and their financial stability.

South Africa, who won the evaluation report, is clearly the target for both of these lines of inquiry with questions on whether the same level of scrutiny in these two key areas was applied to this bid process as was the case for the award of the 2015 and 2019 tournaments.

Specific questions have been raised over the withdrawal of South Africa’s hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban and whether management at the organisers had been contacted to dig deeper on why this had been felt necessary.

The politicking around major decisions like this can get dirty but like in sport once everything that happens on the pitch does no leave a legacy of ill feeling between the bid teams and the World Body then everything is fair game.

France has already delivered a 50-page report with a detailed critique of where the bid evaluation process is flawed in their eyes. Ireland has promised that it will have more follow up questions and responses by close of play today.

Both countries have been publicly critical and privately highly so of the content of the report and are fighting tooth and nail to get voters to recognise the one line of the report they all concur with that all three countries are capable of hosting the tournament.

Ireland’s hope is that question marks over infrastructure at stadia and the lack of experience of hosting such major scale events will be seen as less of a risk than the security and financial stability ones they are highlighting in the South Africa bid.

Seven days and counting down to make that case.

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