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Friday 16 November 2018

'Half-time and we're six points down' - Rugby boss Browne

Philip Browne, Chief Executive, IRFU. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Philip Browne, Chief Executive, IRFU. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland has suffered a heavy blow in the bid to host Rugby World Cup 2023.

An international technical committee has scored our bid lower than rivals South Africa and France.

South Africa have been put in poll position after being judged to have the best bid.

It has left team Ireland battling for votes in the deciding ballot of rugby nations in London, on November 15.

Ireland's stadiums scored poorly overall compared to rivals' and lost marks as evaluators feared multi-million euro improvements to Irish GAA grounds might not be completed in time.

Money

Ireland agreed to pay the required £120m (€136.8m) fee to host the tournament but France upped the ante with a bid of £150m and South Africa trumped that with £160m.

Bid committee chairman Dick Spring insisted that Ireland had not been "outmuscled" financially and had "balanced out" the bids of rival countries by putting more money into sponsorship and hospitality.

He conceded that Ireland could not match the scale of the giant stadiums available in South Africa, but did not believe that size would prove decisive.

"The real bugbear is the weighting on the venues and the host cities," he said.

"If, from day one, that Rugby World Cup had told us that we needed shiny big football soccer stadia, as they have in France and South Africa, we probably would have arrived at a conclusion that we don't have those stadia."

In the end, Ireland scored 72.22pc overall in the evaluation, six points behind South Africa's 78.97pc and trailing three behind France's 75.88pc.

IRFU chief executive, Philip Browne, declaring Ireland will fight for votes in the secret ballot, quipped "it's half time and we're six points down".

Sports Minister Shane Ross said that the nation's bid was far from over.

"Ireland squad already togging out for second half and win on November 15," he said on Twitter. "The report highlighted that Ireland has all the capabilities to host an outstanding Rugby World Cup in 2023.

"I am strongly encouraged by two things.

"Firstly that World Rugby have made it clear that any of the three candidates could host a successful Rugby World Cup.

"I am also encouraged that we ran both South Africa and France very close in the scoring," he said.

Ireland scored lowest in terms of providing match venues in line with "minimum standards".

Judges said that venues required "considerable work" at the smaller GAA stadiums of Pearse, Fitzgerald and Pairc Ui Chaoimh, while noting that the planned upgrade of Casement Park was still awaiting planning permission.

Ireland outscored the others in the category of being "exciting and innovative".

It also came last in tournament infrastructure, scoring lowest in information technology services with "significant upgrade works" required.

Ireland highlighted short journey times between host cities, and its international accessibility, but scored lowest in setting out a comprehensive transport plan which could cope with demands.

On accommodation costs, South Africa beat both France and Ireland.

Emotion

Sky pundit Scott Hastings, the former Scottish international, said that Ireland's bid tugged at the emotional heart-strings. "You would get one hell of a welcome across the north and south of Ireland.

"But in the modern commercial era, smaller Irish stadiums mean less ticket sales, he said.

"Rugby World Cup Limited are going to look at the highest grossing revenues possible.

"So that's certainly a factor within the Irish bid.

"It's a huge factor," he said.

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