Each of the three countries in contention for the 2023 Rugby World Cup hosting duties has a valid argument as to why they should be given the honor. Here is a quick breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the bids from France, South Africa, and Ireland:
Starting with France. They have the stadiums; they have the money; they have been working hard with their marketing campaign and (perhaps crucially) they have the experience of hosting a large sporting event. That positive though is one of the problems as they have already hosted a World Cup in the modern professional era. While they did a great job back in 2007, one can’t help but feel it would be much more beneficial to the game to let someone else have a go.
That coupled with their less than classy use of Jonah Lomu’s children in their final presentation for the tournament – a stunt for which they have been universally panned – leaves one feeling that validating such a move by giving them the tournament would be in very poor taste. They are also hosting the 2024 Olympics just a year later in Paris, so giving them two major sporting events in two years would undoubtedly stretch their economic resources. The tournament must be hosted elsewhere to be a success in all the aspect World Rugby is looking for.
If the tournament must once again be hosted in the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps it is best hosted in a country that has not already had its turn. Sorry France.
Next, we look at the Rainbow Nation. They too have an abundance stadiums with the likes of Emirates Airline Park, DHL Newlands Stadium, Mbombela Stadium and Loftus Versfeld ready for the worth. Besides those, they have the stadiums constructed when they hosted the 2010 World Cup, with Soccer City and Moses Mabhida being notably stunning venues. South Africa would also be better value for money for supporters coming from all over the world due to the Rand’s favourable exchange rate when compared with the major currencies from around the globe.
That it holds many tourist destinations is another positive, not to mention the weather conditions. As long as the tournament is played before the rainy season, then we would be treated to a feast of rugby being played in perfect conditions. Another point going in South Africa’s favour is that it would have been four World Cups since a Southern Hemisphere nation hosted if they were to be unsuccessful with their bid. This would be unfair in terms of rotation of hosting honours and the South would have been denied the tournament for too long. This is mitigated a touch by 2019 being in Japan, a developing rugby nation.
On the negative side, like France, South Africa has already hosted the competition. The image above is so enduring, so timeless, that do can any World Cup back in the country possibly live up to the expectations that would be set?
They are also facing several socio-economic problems with ever-rising crime rates and some political issues cropping up. Another concern is the low turnout of supporters at most of these stadiums. As much as one would love to be optimistic, I can’t believe Loftus would be sold out when two international minnows are playing a midweek game. Opening these stadiums costs money and low attendances would not be very economical. Half full stadiums would not only take away from the atmosphere but the empty seats will do nothing to aid in advertising the game to a global audience.
Another concern is that South Africa is a big country and there would be a lot of traveling being done from stadium to stadium. This takes away from the festival feel that goes hand in hand with such tournaments and would also be costly for fans who want to follow the event as a whole. It also presents numerous logistical challenges. Another point going against South Africa is that the rugby public don’t really seem to care much about hosting the tournament. The campaign has been fairly muted and hasn’t captured the attention of the public.
Finally, we look at the Emerald Isle. Fresh from successfully hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Ireland is putting their hand up to host the men’s event in 2023. Yes, Ireland hosting would mean depriving the south of a third consecutive World Cup. Yes, depending on the timing of the tournament, the weather could be a tad bit wet. Overall, though, the positives of hosting in Ireland far outweigh those issues.
The argument could be made that Ireland does not have as many stadiums as South Africa or France but looking at it closely, not every game needs to be played in a 40,000+ capacity stadium. Venues like Musgrave Park, The Belfield Bowl, The Sportsground and the RDS are more than equipped to provide adequate facilities. Due to their size, they are almost certain to be packed for every game and this will undoubtedly create a great atmosphere that can fuel the contest. Nothing would be more demoralizing and a poorer advertisement of our game than watching a match played in a one-third full 50,000 capacity stadium with empty seats aplenty. For the bigger group games and knockouts, Thomond Park, the Kingspan Stadium and The Aviva Stadium are more than capable of providing the services and atmosphere worthy of such showpiece events and one can’t think of a better place to hold the final than the magnificent Croke Park.
That the island itself is small will create that festival feel that was such a massive feature of the 2011 edition. Distances between stadiums aren’t huge and it has an air of logistical convenience to it. Given the welcoming nature of the locals, it would be a great experience for visitors – both spectators and players – as they will have the chance to get to immerse themselves in the event.
One thing to consider is that rugby is experiencing a golden era in Ireland because of the way the provincial teams and the national team have been performing, so you can expect the supporters to get behind the tournament in a big way. The feeling is that the Irish have the most passion to host this event at the grassroots level and that is a huge consideration point for World Rugby. What really stands in Ireland’s favour is that they have not hosted the tournament on their own and they have proven themselves more than capable after doing a superb job with the Women’s tournament.
Ireland must host, they are best placed to advertise the game to the world (don’t doubt the convenience factor of flights from the USA in this decision-making process) and they would provide the best atmosphere over the length of the tournament.
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