The 2023 Rugby World Cup is set to be held in South Africa after the board of the sport’s governing body recommended their bid ahead of Ireland and France on Tuesday.
World Rugby’s Council is expected to rubber-stamp the recommendation on November 15 – though it could still opt for any of the three bids. Japan will host the next tournament in 2019.
Ireland had been the bookmakers’ favourites having never been the main host before while France were the outsiders having staged the tournament in 2007.
South Africa hosted the 1995 World Cup against an extraordinary emotional, social and political backdrop after the country had missed the first two tournaments due to the sporting ban over apartheid.
The sight of Nelson Mandela in a Springbok shirt presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar as South Africa triumphed on home soil is probably the most iconic image in the tournament’s history.
There had been concerns that the current political instability would work against a return but the evaluation committee clearly felt that it was not an issue, while the availability of stadiums built for the 2010 soccer World Cup helped it achieve a high score on infrastructure.
The evaluation was carried out by a team of “internal and external functional area experts”, against weighted criteria.
They also included the likely commercial success and guarantees, venues and political stability.
“This is the first Rugby World Cup host selection to take place following a complete redesign of the bidding process to promote greater transparency and maximise World Rugby’s hosting objectives,” World Rugby and Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
“The comprehensive and independently scrutinised evaluation reaffirmed that we have three exceptional bids but it also identified South Africa as a clear leader based on performance against the key criteria.”
World Rugby published the results of the evaluation report with South Africa receiving an overall score of 78.97 percent to the 75.88 for France and 72.25 for Ireland.
“We told the World Rugby Council that we would deliver a triple win tournament when we presented to them last month – a win for the game with record receipts; a win for the fans with an unforgettable tournament in a bucket-list destination and, most importantly, a win for the players with the most athlete-centric event in the tournament’s history,” SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said.
The Irish bid scored badly on the heavily-weighted “venues and host cities” criteria, probably reflecting concerns over a shortage of hotel rooms.