Irish bid to host Rugby World Cup ‘holed’, but not sunk

Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been “holed”, but not sunk, by the report that placed them third of the three bids, IRFU chief, Philip Browne, has said.

Philip Browne, IRFU chief executive, has not conceded defeat in Ireland's bid to host the Rugby World Cup. Picture: Billy Stickland

Browne, who wrote a stinging letter to World Rugby CEO, Brett Gosper, last week, outlining Irish concerns about the report, said the team would battle until the first round of voting in London, next Wednesday.

The winner requires 20 of the World Rugby Council 39 votes.

Browne’s letter questioned aspects of the report, such as security (with all three nations rated the same), and followed hot on the heels of French Federation president, Bernard Laporte’s reservations about the conclusions. “No doubt about it, we were holed,” Browne told AFP, in a weekend interview. “We don’t think we were holed below the waterline and that is why we are still in the battle and that is why we will keep battling away.”

Browne admits he has to choose his words carefully, so he doesn’t get a rap on the knuckles from World Rugby, while also serving the Irish government, who, having invested both a lot of political capital and money in the bid, will want answers.

“There’s a fine line between whinging and having justifiable concerns round the accuracy of what is contained in a report that World Rugby has placed so much store and weight,” said Browne.”The answer is it [the outcome] is finely balanced amongst the three bids,” said Browne. “That’s the fact. We owe it to ourselves, the Government and people of Ireland, who have been very enthusiastic, to fight to the end for it.”

Browne insists Irish anger is not being directed at South Africa — he calls his South African counterpart, Jurie Roux, one of rugby’s “gentlemen” — but at the report itself.

“It is a circular argument that ‘yes you [Ireland] can deliver stadia facilities, but we are going to mark you down because you don’t have them, despite the budget being guaranteed by the government. It is a kind of no-win situation.”

”There’s all these issues, which are difficult for us to understand,” he said. “In our letter, we had a great saying by Albert Einstein and here I paraphrase him: ‘There are a lot of things that can be counted, which don’t actually count, and there are lots of things that count that can’t be counted’.

“In some respect, that comes down to our vision and what we are offering.”

He added: “A World Cup in Ireland would be a particular World Cup, something which fans round the world would have enjoyed. But, apparently, that wasn’t part of the overall vision World Rugby had for it,” Browne said.



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