Bid for 2023 event gets seal of approval
IRELAND'S hopes of hosting the Rugby World Cup in nine years' time have been given a huge boost after receiving the approval of a key IRB official.
Brett Gosper, chief executive of the International Rugby Board, said that the joint North-South bid for the 2023 tournament had an excellent chance of success.
Mr Gosper said: "Ireland would be a very, very strong bid. They have great infrastructure, great stadia, passion for the game, great fans.
"There's a lot of passion in and around rugby in Ireland, given the Six Nations and Brian O'Driscoll's fairytale departure."
It is understood the IRB will look for €120m in hosting rights, but those behind the bid are confident it would be a solid investment.
A spokesman for the Department of Sport and Tourism said the competition would generate an estimated total revenue of €800m, with €200m shared between to the exchequers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
New Zealand helped pave the way for Ireland to host the competition following the success of the 2011 tournament there – although it posted losses of €24m after hosting the event.
However the department said that it would be confident that revenue – including ticket sales and sponsorship – would make an Irish event feasible.
"Ireland is a lot more centrally located than New Zealand in terms of attracting visitors," the spokesman added.
Former Irish international Hugo MacNeill is heading up a working group deciding whether Ireland should bid for the 2023 tournament. He said: "If we decided to go for it, we will be really going for it – and we'll be going to win."
He echoed Mr Gosper's remarks about the quality of the stadia available here and said there was a belief that Ireland could be successful in the bid.
The GAA has already agreed to open up grounds normally used exclusively for Gaelic football and hurling, such as Croke Park, which was used for rugby during the construction of the Aviva Stadium.
"It (the bid) has generated a fantastic amount of enthusiasm both here right throughout the island but also Irish people abroad, who are contacting us and saying 'this is great idea'. I think it's sort of dawned on people that this is something we can do."
Last February Sports Minister Leo Varadkar announced that Mr MacNeill had been tasked to chair the working group, which will receive input from key bodies, including the governments north and south of the Border.
Yesterday Mr Varadkar said he believed Ireland could win the bid an do an even better job than New Zealand.
"New Zealand ran a really good World Cup and they have a population of just four-and-a-half million. Ireland has a bigger population and better infrastructure. I actually I think we can do an even better job."
Irish international Sean O'Brien also believes the country has the ability to host the tournament. "Obviously it's a massive event and one which we're more than capable of hosting, so it's an exciting prospect."
Commenting on the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the flanker said the Irish team would go to England with "confidence" and their "best foot forward".
Mr Gosper also has faith in Ireland's ability to take home the trophy. "They're going to be in and around it aren't they? This is the strongest side we've seen in Ireland for a long time."
Commenting on Ireland's chances of winning next year's Rugby World Cup, Irish head coach Joe Schmidt said: "It's one of those things that will be really difficult to predict.
"We've got a couple of really difficult games in our pool," he said referring to matches against France, Italy and Canada.