Ireland, France and South Africa are currently duking it out to see who will be crowned host of Rugby World Cup 2023, and the hyperbolic statements have ratcheted up a notch ahead of the November 15 decision.
France has declared that awarding them the tournament will prevent the “death of international rugby”, Ireland has promised record revenues for World Rugby, and apparently South Africa’s on-field woes and off-field chaos will be eliminated the second they win the bid. None of these are to be taken at face value of course, but it is worth weighing up the respective bids from a punters perspective.
Shall we just end the debate here? Six weeks of watching rugby in the Emerald Isle while drinking industrial amounts of the black stuff, absolutely stunning countryside and more craic than you can poke a corner post at. But enough about the players’ experience.
The chance for classic traditional rugby grounds such as Ravenhill in Belfast and the hallowed Thomond Park in Limerick to project their famous atmospheres to the rest of the world is enticing, and this is juxtaposed with the opportunity to play matches in the gigantic GAA (Gaelic Football) stadiums that litter the island, with the cathedral known as Croke Park nominated to host the final, a truly unthinkable proposition even 15 years ago if you know your Irish history.
The bid also re-enforces one of the best and most popular aspects of Irish rugby, the fact that it encompasses and includes the whole island, Northern Ireland and the Republic, resulting in 100 per cent guaranteed craic from Glengarriff to Giant’s Causeway. Up with this sort of thing. Five pints out of five.
Great food, great stadiums, great infrastructure, fantastic wine, stunning scenery, extremely attractive people, nice people in some parts…. On the surface, France seems to have it all, but at the end of the day, haven’t we been here recently?
The fact that they hosted the 2007 edition, as well as hosting games in the 1991 and 1999 World Cups mean that it feels like it would be more of the same, with the 16-year turnaround between hosting surely putting an end to this bid.
Would be a functional World Cup, but after Japan (which is guaranteed to be the most supremely well-organised tournament in memory) offering something new and exotic, functional just doesn’t cut it. 3.5 pints out of five.
The 1995 World Cup was one of sports truly uplifting events, with the Springbok’s epic win over New Zealand in the final, Mandela and Pienaar on the podium and the rainbow nation coming together post-apartheid.
The embers of goodwill that flickered and illuminated South African rugby, if ever so slightly, for years after that ‘95 World Cup were finally extinguished last Saturday in Albany, with many just plain fed up with the Springboks’ ineptitude.
While results on the field should have no bearing on whether they should be World Cup hosts, the politics in South African rugby make Australian rugby look like the primary school student council in comparison, and it’s hard to see it all being rosy in just six years.
South Africa is a beautiful country with friendly people and an amazing rugby pedigree, but the above combined with the weak value of the Rand means this might be put in the too hard basket for now. 2027 might be a more reasonable year. 3 pints out of 5.
So Ireland is obviously my first choice, but it is by no means guaranteed to emerge victorious. Who would you choose, and why?