New Zealand rugby legend Sean Fitzpatrick believes Ireland are right to apply to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
As the build up to 2015 event in England gathers momentum, the former All Black captain called on the IRFU to consider applying for the event with support from the Irish Government.
“I think it is a fantastic idea. Why not? People said that New Zealand couldn’t host the World Cup but we did and put on a fantastic tournament,” he said yesterday at a function hosted by DHL, World Cup logistics partners, in Dublin yesterday.
“Everyone in the country got behind it, the New Zealand government was the only government that put money up front for such a tournament to make it happen. Helen Clarke [Premier] went to the IRB meeting and said there’s NZ$50 million (€30.8m) to guarantee the tournament.
“Once we got it, everyone just bought into it and it was phenomenal what it did for the country in terms of tourism. The legacy has been absolutely amazing and we can now hold other similar major sporting events.
“You have the people. You have the passion, a fantastic country and I am sure you have the stadiums to be able to host it. We were told we didn’t have the stadiums but we did. We made it work and we didn’t build any new stadiums except for giving Eden Park a facelift through redevelopment.”
Keith Wood called on the IRFU to carry out a feasibility study into the venture to make sure it would benefit the country.
“There is an awful lot that would have to happen before it could go, whether the IRFU could do it on their own, this is the Ireland Inc. way of doing it and it’s a way of putting Ireland’s best foot forward,” said Wood.
“There’d need to be a feasibility study to see whether it can be done, but if that was the case, if the numbers stacked up, wouldn’t it be phenomenal?
“It can’t be an ego thing. It has to be a realistic thing. It has to deliver for Ireland and not just Irish rugby.
“I know it was brought up at the economic forum that this was something that was mooted as part of the sports tourism forum going forward, that Ireland should be in a position to bid for big events and, hey, look the best example is New Zealand.
“We’re like-sized countries in terms of populations, they were able to do it and yes it is a rugby-mad country but it isn’t just rugby, it has to be the country, about getting the people on board.
“We know, for instance that in a very big Munster game in the Heineken Cup or say against Leinster that there’s about €10 million put into the coffers of the city. That’s just one game.
“Whether something like the rugby World Cup coming to Ireland could be enough of an income generator we would need to know, but we need inward investment and as much inward tourism as possible. Yes, it has to stack up but you have to aim for it, you have to aim for big things, you can’t just say no; there is a lot of work to be done before it could be made happen, but logistically it is possible and you have to dream the dream.
“In fairness, you look at New Zealand in rugby and the dream is to win every game, that’s what they set their sights on, you can consider that to be arrogant or not but for them it’s realistic, that’s their goal, what goals are we setting in terms of getting the World Cup in here?”
Wood accepts the GAA would be central to Ireland making a successful bid but believes the Association has seen the value of opening up Croke Park to rugby already.
“I think that hurdle is over, again I said it from the time. I remember the noise for the Ireland v England game was something else, and it is a world-class stadium which needs to be seen on a world stage. It has already been shown off to the world and is good for everybody, good for the GAA, good for rugby, for sport, good for the country.”
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