Sport Rugby

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Comment - France being awarded the 2023 Rugby World Cup is a humiliation for World Rugby

President of the Fédération Française de Rugby Bernard Laporte
President of the Fédération Française de Rugby Bernard Laporte

Mick Cleary

That the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been awarded to France is a humiliation for World Rugby. The ‘clear leader’ and recommendation of the Rugby World Cup board had been South Africa. There had been a huge amount of money and time invested in producing a 139-page evaluation report that considered all aspects of the three countries bidding to host the event. South Africa came top of that process by some distance.

This was no token technical assessment. This was a process that had been set up by World Rugby and agreed at various discussion stages by its various members with the explicit intention of making the whole bidding process ‘clear and transparent,’ and bringing to an end or, at least, diminishing the horse-trading that usually attended these sort of events. Football has been mired in scandal over the staging of its World Cup. The Olympics, too.

The credibility of this process for World Cup has now been called into serious question. The votes in the first round of voting were France 18, South Africa 13 and Ireland 8. Ireland dropped out and the delegates voted again with France trumping South Africa by 24 votes to 15.

France was always hell-bent on taking the fight to the final whistle and it has been vindicated by that stridently expressed desire. The federation president, Bernard Laporte, is no shrinking violet and he lambasted the process, calling it ‘misguided and flawed.’

That is as may be. But it was World Rugby who initiated and backed the report. It has the World Rugby imprimatur on it. It was far more than a mere box-ticking exercise, merely a guide to help delegates make up their minds. It has far more status than that. Questions will have to be asked of the governing body. Their credibility is at stake.

All that said, of course France will put on a good show as they did in 2007. But the process has left a lot to be desired.

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