The Government has approved further contact with the Northern Ireland executive on pulling together a joint bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup on the island of Ireland.
Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed after the cabinet meeting that a new group be formed between the two governments and the Irish Rugby Football Union to move the bid along and secure support before its submission in 2016.
Reaction to the bid has been universally positive with players past and present speaking in favour and talking up the prospect of a social as well as a sporting winner for the island.
Sebastian Coe, who led London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games spoke out in favour as well in Dublin yesterday, though his comments about using the event to create a legacy that will make rugby a majority sport among children will doubtless have ruffled a few feathers around the world of the GAA.
The support of that organisation is critical for the bid with Croke Park pencilled in to host the semi finals and the final. It is fully behind the bid but it will not make it easier in some circles if talk of an oval ball replacing a round one is given too much weight.
The Northern Executive has substantial financial resource from London which has been directed strongly towards sport in recent years. Ravenhill and Casement Park which are likely to feature as two stadia in the bid are both being redeveloped using public investment and it is likely the cost guarantee burden will be shared between the two governments, if not on an equal footing then certainly with enough collaboration to make the bid stronger.
Rugby has been hit with a number of blows in the past two years with a slowdown in sales, threats to the future of the premier club competitions and the loss of the kit deal with puma but now there is a much fairer breeze blowing in behind.
In the past week Alan Quinlan has signed up to promote dental insurance, Fergus McFadden to endorse FitFuel, a new yoghurt, Leinster Rugby have been pumping iron in the Conrad Hotel’s new gym and RTE Sport has secured sponsorship from Elvery’s for its broadcast coverage of the Autumn Series of internationals.
All of these smaller deals will have happened without the bid but together with it they create a halo effect around the sport that was missing.
We understand a new kit contract has been signed and will be announced publicly in the coming weeks though perhaps not in time for Christmas, and now at last the authorities can look to the future with more optimism than trepidation.
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