Varadkar kicks off bid to host 2023 World Cup

The Government will today launch an ambitious go-it-alone plan to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup with games to be hosted in rugby and GAA stadiums north and south of the border.

The campaign will be kick-started by Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar and has the potential to bring 337,000 international rugby fans to Ireland, boosting the economy to the tune of €800m, according to an independent report commissioned by Mr Varadkar.

He will address leading decision-makers on the issue at an international conference in Dublin today, before bringing the report to Cabinet tomorrow, where he will seek the support of Government to plan for a bid.

The event would see games played in major stadiums, including the Aviva and the RDS in Dublin, Thomond Park in Limerick, and Casement Park and Ravenhill in Belfast.

The GAA has backed the ambitious plan and is prepared to make available Croke Park in Dublin, Casement Park in Belfast and other stadiums that would extend the event to all parts of the country.

While it is still early days, Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, Pearse Stadium in Galway, Semple Stadium in Thurles, and Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney could also host games.

Many would get Government-funded makeovers ahead of the tournament, and the GAA is said to be “very supportive” and has worked “very closely” with Mr Varadkar’s department on the plan.

The minister will speak at an International Rugby Board conference in Dublin today, where he will make the case that New Zealand — which is similar in size to Ireland — successfully hosted the event in 2011, proving it can be done here.

All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick last night backed Ireland’s bid. “I think it is a fantastic idea,” he said. “Why not? People said that New Zealand couldn’t host the World Cup but we did and put on a fantastic tournament.”

Mr Varadkar believes this is the most appropriate and realistic international sporting event that Ireland could host. Anything else would be too big, but rugby facilities here are excellent, and the necessary hotel, transport, and tourism infrastructure is in place.

Tomorrow, the minister will present Cabinet with the report by Deloitte consultants, which concludes Ireland could make a “realistic” bid.

It says some costs will be involved and some stadium development is needed, but that Ireland is well positioned to host such an event, which it says has the potential to bring €800m into the economy. A formal decision to launch a bid cannot be made until it is agreed by governments both North and South.

The tender process by the International Rugby Board will not be launched until 2016. South Africa will also be vying — for the third time — to host the event that year, but 2023 will be the turn of a northern hemisphere country.

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