Wednesday 21 February 2018

Dick Spring claims that World Rugby board members were 'surprised' by evaluation report

Irish vow not to be fobbed off despite South African calls to 'step aside' in 2023 race

Dick Spring, chairman of the Bid Oversight Board
Dick Spring, chairman of the Bid Oversight Board
David Kelly

David Kelly

World Rugby board members have attempted to console the Ireland RWC 2023 bid team by telling them that they may have a better chance of hosting the event in 2027 should South Africa confirm their new status as host favourites in 2023 when the November 15 vote takes place.

However, the Irish have vowed to keep fighting for their 2023 hopes and they have once again reiterated their determination not to step aside, with even Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking a swipe at the cocky South Africans.

Privately, the IRFU have been advised that they should eye up 2027 instead as by that stage it will have been 12 years since the World Cup would have been staged in Europe, which still remains the sport's largest economic market.

However, the USA and Argentina are likely to loom large as potential host nations by then, too, and the Irish are wary of being fobbed off as they continue to lobby hard to win the November 15 vote.

Dick Spring, chairman of the Bid Oversight Board, claims that many board members throughout the world were surprised at the results of Tuesday's evaluation report.

"Ireland is now in dialogue with its many friends throughout world rugby and their initial response to us has been one of surprise at the evaluation report and its findings," he said in response to South African calls for Ireland to step aside.

"While it is not surprising to hear such innuendo, it is totally inappropriate."

Meanwhile, as Ireland's 2023 World Cup hopes hang in the balance, the task facing Joe Schmidt's side in the 2019 competition in Japan was presented more clearly with the release of the fixtures.

Ireland will open their campaign against Scotland on September 22 in Yokohama at 8.45am Irish time before facing the hosts six days later in Shizuoka at 8.15am Irish time.

Unlike their doomed bid four years ago, the tougher games are front-loaded which may theoretically help them target a semi-final.

They may have to do so without Jamie Heaslip after it was confirmed that the Leinster No 8 underwent a second surgery on a complicated back issue. The 34-year-old veteran has not played since the Six Nations last March.

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