Wednesday 20 March 2019

Dream is over

Ireland win just eight of 39 votes as the French overt urn SA recommendation

Ireland 2023 Oversight Board chairman Dick Spring (left) with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross at the Rugby World Cup 2023 host union announcement at the Royal Garden Hotel, London. Pic: Sportsfile
Ireland 2023 Oversight Board chairman Dick Spring (left) with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross at the Rugby World Cup 2023 host union announcement at the Royal Garden Hotel, London. Pic: Sportsfile

How can an 'open and transparent' process end in a secret ballot?

And who said politics and sport should never inhabit the same living room?

It is one of the great mysteries of political life.

An open ballot forces all nations to, at least, be straight and true about their intentions and, ultimately, their votes.

"I suppose it's a blind ballot," reacted Brian O'Driscoll in London yesterday.

"You don't know where the votes are going to come from or who they're going to go to.

"It always leaves that level of uncertainty and the Council members voted and felt France were the most viable option.

"You have to respect that decision."

Ireland 2023 ambassador Brian O’Driscoll in London yesterday.
Ireland 2023 ambassador Brian O’Driscoll in London yesterday.

The announcement of France as the winners left World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont on the back-foot.


The former England second row had to defend the employment of an Independent Advisory Board which suggested South Africa, while noting all three countries could host a successful tournament.

For all the talk about the importance of the 'Recommendation' from World Rugby, the relationships formed over many years cut through all of the red tape to tell the world what everyone now knows.

First, the Irish aren't as charming as we would have ourselves believe.

We're actually not everyone's second favourite nation, despite what every foreign guest on 'The Late, Late Show' gushes.

Second, the power of money is what makes the world of rugby go round.

The last two weeks have been filled with questions from France and Ireland over the accuracy of the information from the Recommendation.

It would seem South Africa have fallen to either their own naivety, to France's power-play, or, more probably, a combination of both.

When all the arguments are put to bed, the governing body will receive the biggest guaranteed 'bang for their buck' in France.

This will all eventually feed down into the coffers of the Tier 2 and Tier 3 nations, those most in need.

These are the kind of countries which can't afford to be seduced by the smooth tones of Liam Neeson telling all who would listen that Ireland is "ready for the world."

The game is dying in places like Australia and barely breathing in some corners of the world.

The sport needs investment and the World Cup generates the sort of 'mullah' that can make a difference. The more money, the bigger the difference.

For the record, France came out ahead after the first round of votes on 18 against South Africa's 13.

The Irish bid to recover from being listed last of the three from the Independent Advisory Group's Recommendation for World Rugby fell on deaf ears as they pulled a paltry eight.

This meant the Irish votes were liquidated and redistributed in the second round, France emerging convincing winners 24-15, to hold the tournament for the second time in just 16 years.

That doesn't seem just.

With no other recourse left to 'the fighting Irish,' there was an official outpouring of grace in accordance with the rules of etiquette.

"It is not to be. Our race is now run," said Philip Browne, the Chief Executive of the IRFU.

"Today belongs to France. They have our warmest congratulations and very best wishes for a magnificent Rugby World Cup in 2023."

"For almost six years, we have focussed passionately on bringing a Rugby World Cup to Ireland in 2023.

"In that time, we developed a world class proposition which reflected positively on Ireland and saw us formally acknowledged as a destination well capable of hosting a superb Rugby World Cup."

Sadly, the appointment of France makes it all the more unlikely that Ireland will be seen as an appropriate host for the 2027 World Cup.

The earliest shot will be as far away as 2031 with no guarantees then.

This comes as a cruel blow in a cruel world where financial considerations override all else.

A romantic notion was turned into a viable bid to welcome the world to a small island.

Anything New Zealand could do, as a host, Ireland could do better, much better.

However, there is a pecking order in the global game and Ireland are not as high up as their world ranking suggests.

For all the hoopla about the recommendation process, it probably didn't make a whiff of an impact on the votes, such was France's domination.

Here's a recommendation for World Rugby - don't bother with one the next time around.

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