Italy have confirmed they will bid to host Rugby World Cup 2023 – the first nation to cement their opposition to Ireland.
The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) has vowed to formalise its bid to stage the 2023 global contest when World Rugby starts accepting bids in May.
Ireland asserted themselves as the first Test nation ready to bid to host the World Cup in eight years’ time at the tail-end of last year.
South Africa, who hosted the tournament in 1995, and the USA are also expected to ratify their bids in due course, now World Rugby has confirmed the application process.
“We will formalise our interest with World Rugby in the month of May,” said FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi, who believes hosting the Junior World Championships in 2011 and again this summer boost Italy’s ability to stage a World Cup.
“But I want immediately to confirm our intention to bid to host the World Cup in Italy in 2023.
“The growth of rugby in Italy in recent years, results obtained in the Six Nations and autumn Tests and the experiences with the Under-20s World Cup in 2011 and next June are just some fixed points behind the Italian bid.
“I am sure that today Italian rugby has everything you need to organise a memorable Rugby World Cup and that whole movement, in the next two years, will work to ensure that this dream can become a reality.”
Italy beat Scotland 22-19 at Murrayfield last weekend, and believe such footholds in the Six Nations, Europe’s premier Test competition, marks them out as a major contender to host the world’s most prestigious tournament.
Governing body World Rugby will launch its “expression of interest phase” for countries aiming to bid to host the 2023 competition on May 14.
That process will finish on June 15 – but completed bids will not be submitted until June 2016.
World Rugby will hold workshops for unions interested in applying to host the tournament in June this year, and the game’s global bosses will not ratify the 2023 hosts until May 2017.
Ireland have already been open about committing £100m to underwrite their bid to host the 2023 World Cup.
The Northern Ireland Executive and Irish Government have already backed the Irish Rugby Union’s plans to secure rugby’s global showpiece.
Irish bosses have already tipped South Africa and the USA to offer the strongest opposition to their bid, but Italy have confirmed their interest ahead of those two other potential contenders.