TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has given his support to hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
But the most crucial factor will be the permission from the GAA to use its stadiums around the country – and not just Croke Park – for rugby matches. The GAA is due to vote on a motion to allow this to happen at its annual Congress in Derry at the end of this month.
The World Cup bid would involve the use of 12 stadiums, North and South – including some owned by the GAA.
Mr Varadkar is now planning to approach his cabinet colleagues to see how much money is available to upgrade the facilities in stadiums for the tournament in 2023.
The minister was given a copy of a feasibility study into hosting the Rugby World Cup during a meeting with IRFU officials this week in his department. The study was carried out by Deloitte and Touche with the support of the Government, the Northern Ireland executive and the IRFU itself.
England stages the Rugby World Cup in 2015, followed by Japan in 2019 and the bidding for the 2023 World Cup is due to begin in two years' time.
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar confirmed that he is supporting the IRFU's plan to get the Rugby World Cup. He will have to get the Government to give a guarantee worth up to €125m to cover any losses suffered during the running of the tournament.
He will also have to get agreement from the Cabinet to fund upgrading works in some of the 12 stadiums.
There will be no need to upgrade Croke Park or IRFU venues such as the Aviva Stadium, Thomond Park and Ravenshill in Belfast, which is currently nearing the completion of a major extension.
But it is understood that state money would be required to upgrade the media and corporate facilities at famous GAA venues such as Semple Stadium in Thurles and Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork.
Other high-capacity GAA grounds that could host major World Cup games include Casement Park in Belfast, Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney and the Limerick Gaelic Grounds.