Saturday 21 September 2019

'Ireland believed they were in a stronger position on 2023 bid' - Welsh rugby chief

Ireland 2023 bid chairman Dick Spring and IRFU chief executive Philip Browne reflect on the lost bid earlier this week. Photo: PA
Ireland 2023 bid chairman Dick Spring and IRFU chief executive Philip Browne reflect on the lost bid earlier this week. Photo: PA
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

"Ireland thought they were in a stronger position than they actually were" throughout the Rugby World Cup bidding process, the chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union has said.

Gareth Davies, a member of the World Rugby Council, its Executive Committee, and a director of Rugby World Cup Limited, told the Irish Independent that he recognised that Ireland was "extremely disappointed" not to have succeeded in their bid for the 2023 event.

"I'm surprised," Mr Davies admitted. "I think Ireland thought they were in a stronger position. I don't think anyone told them they weren't suitable.

"There wasn't an occasion when anyone said 'You're not good enough'. They were sort of guided along the process and they were answering the questions. Each bid had certain weaknesses or questions raised," Mr Davies said.

Ireland was left disappointed this week as it was confirmed that France would host the Rugby World Cup 2023 - itself a surprise as South Africa had originally been in pole position following an evaluation report.

But ultimately France topped the first count with 18 votes, followed by South Africa on 13 and Ireland on eight, which led to Ireland being eliminated.

Then France won the second count 24-15 and with it the right to host the 2023 tournament.

Although it was a secret ballot, the Irish bid team believes that Scotland's three votes went in favour of the French bid, on the premise that it would generate bigger profits for World Rugby, while Wales's three votes backed the South African bid, based on the evaluation report.

Ireland's bid chairman, Dick Spring, explained why he felt Wales and Scotland had deserted us. "That's the big disappointment really from all of this, that we didn't get the support of the home nations. I would have thought after a century and a half of co-operation between Ireland, Scotland and Wales, that we would have got their support," he said.

Fionnán Sheahan: No conspiracy: Spring and Browne just didn't cultivate enough votes

"Wales found themselves in a situation where Gareth Davies, who is a senior official [and] was on the sub-committee that recommended the evaluation ...they felt they couldn't go against him. We were caught in the middle of a crossfire there."

Speculation

However, speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Mr Davies said that while there had been a lot of speculation about how the votes fell, he would not be drawn, adding: "We haven't publicised that."

"Ireland has given their explanation as to why Wales and Scotland didn't vote and I'd take what Philip and others have said about that," he said in reference to the comments of Philip Browne, the IRFU chief executive.

In the press conference after the announcement, Mr Browne had said: "Scotland went for the money and Wales went out of solidarity with Gareth Davies. England supported us and we have to thank England for that."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Rugby Union would also not be drawn on how they had voted, saying it had been a confidential process.

Mr Davies said that while finance is an important aspect of the bidding, because the world cup is responsible for 84pc of World Rugby finances which are used to grow the sport worldwide, he stressed that finances were not the sole decider.

"The French financial bid was greater than South Africa's and we shouldn't just look at the finances or it will be France and England each time," he said.

"We asked what produced the best world cup in the round and I'd like to think in the future that other countries will be given a chance."

Irish Independent

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