Q&A: More questions than answers from Rugby World Cup 2023 verdict

How did the voting work?

Tier one nations — Argentina, Australia, England, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales — had three votes each. Japan, the 2019 hosts, had two votes, while Canada, Georgia, Romania, the United States and six regional associations had two votes each. Bidding nations did not vote. The ballot was secret, so unless nations publicly disclosed their voting intentions then it was not possible to ascertain who voted for who. But it would seem England was the only one of the tier one nations to vote for us.

Why did Ireland only get eight votes?

As with any sporting vote the outcome has a lot to do with politics. This may have been a secret ballot, but already it has been revealed that Ireland were deserted by their neighbours. Scotland elected to back France’s economically lucrative bid, while Wales threw their support behind South Africa as their chairman, Gareth Davies, was part of the evaluation report that recommended them as hosts. That left Ireland with England as the only big hitter supporting them as the southern hemisphere nations reportedly stuck to their guns by backing South Africa. Once Scotland and Wales both chose to snub Ireland it was little surprise only eight votes were mustered. Support from smaller countries, like the United States of America, were only worth one vote to Ireland in the end.

Can a European nation host the Rugby World Cup in 2027?

There is no set rule that says a European nation cannot host the 2027 tournament, but history would suggest it is unlikely. As with any other major sporting event, there is a desire to spread the game around the world and it would be a shock to have the competition on the same continent for successive tournaments. 2023 will be the 10th edition of the Rugby World Cup and it has previously rotated between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. South Africa will bid again when the selection process for 2027 comes around. Logic would dictate that the World Cup will then be heading south, as it will have been staged in the northern hemisphere three times in a row.

Was Ireland right to bid in the first place?

It would be very harsh to say Ireland was wrong to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but after gaining only eight votes the question is valid. In reality, their campaign was marked down by World Rugby when it came to stadia and venue cities. It was claimed the stadia needed “considerable work”, while the venue cities “lack prior experience of an event on the scale of RWC.” In fairness to Ireland, the importance of such criterion had not been raised until last month when World Rugby produced their evaluation report. They were certainly not stressed back in December 2014 when Ireland formally announced its intention to bid. As IRFU chief executive Philip Browne hinted yesterday there is a sense of Ireland being led up the garden path when it comes to bidding for a major tournament. If World Rugby don’t know what they want, how can potential hosts?

So where did it all go wrong?

If you were to ask World Rugby where it went wrong then they would highlight Ireland’s stadia and venue cities. The governing body’s evaluation report last month raised concerns about the bid’s strength in these categories and it was that which saw them ranked third in the recommendation process. However, in reality, Ireland can also feel let down by their neighbours and it is here that a major problem occurred. Without the support of Scotland and Wales, Ireland were never going to be able to get past the first round of voting. South Africa could call open the support of their southern hemisphere allies, while France’s promise of a financially lucrative tournament saw them hoover up votes. In the end, it meant on the crucial day of voting Ireland were left out in the cold.

What happens now - any reprisals?

World Rugby will review the bidding process, while South Africa expressed disgruntlement but insisted they had agreed to the process when it was set out. What did annoy South Africa was the communication which followed the independent evaluation report and they criticised France and Ireland, plus World Rugby, for the “entirely opaque” process since. It had raised expectations in the Rainbow Nation which have now been dashed. The Irish Rugby Football Union, meanwhile, denied it had previously contemplated legal proceedings.


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