Thursday 21 March 2019

Alan Quinlan: Winning bid for 2023 Rugby World Cup wouldn't just be victory for rugby

Ireland’s bid ambassador Brian O’Driscoll at yesterday’s press conference in London. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs
Ireland’s bid ambassador Brian O’Driscoll at yesterday’s press conference in London. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs
Alan Quinlan

Alan Quinlan

Seeing the 2023 Rugby World Cup bid heading down the home straight, I can't help but feel a victory for Ireland would be a win on so many levels.

I'm trying not to get carried away but we have so many strengths in this bid that I would be shocked if we didn't get the tournament ahead of France and South Africa.

From a rugby perspective, having the opportunity to showcase the game's biggest event would be massive, and the overall impact would filter down into all of the sport's tributaries; it could push rugby to a whole new level.

I know there is a fear that this bid will only benefit rugby but it would be huge for the whole country, across all walks of life. There is a perception that rugby is only played by the elite but you try telling that to some of the rural clubs around the country.

Supporters will turn out. There will be a carnival atmosphere from Malin to Mizen and the event has the power to unite people north and south of the border.

The bid has been built on unity across this island, which is a massive thing for our country considering our history. The 2023 Rugby World Cup could be a phenomenal story.

There are of course a few concerns around things such as infrastructure and hotel prices but I am confident that we could get everything in order over the next six years. The pros of our bid far outweigh the cons.

One of the great things about our country is the way we unite for sport. We see that every September in Croke Park, we see it in the Aviva Stadium when big teams come to Dublin and we see it when our athletes are competing in the Olympics.

I know I'm seen as a rugby man but I'm also GAA man and a soccer man. I love all sports and that outlook is a lot more common on these shores than in France and South Africa, I imagine.


The GAA is obviously a crucial part of this bid but I'm sure that the all sorts of sports clubs would get behind it because there is a mutual respect between different codes.

South Africa and France are powerful nations. France obviously hosted the European Championships in soccer last year and are possibly ahead of us in terms of facilities but I have no doubt that the stadia in Ireland would be up to standard.

South Africa also have a proven track record in hosting major tournaments, so I think World Rugby would be sending a powerful message by awarding the event to Ireland - the smaller nations matter too.

We have proven in the past with the Special Olympics, Ryder Cup and more recently the Women's Rugby World Cup that we can put on a great show. And when you put on a great show the world takes notice.

There are huge challenges around making rugby a global game and I think Ireland is the ideal setting for World Rugby to catch the attention of a wider audience, particularly coming four years after the tournament in Japan that they hope will start prising open new markets.

The way the Irish public would embrace the tournament would make it a World Cup to remember and I'm sure it would bring the best out in us, and showcase our welcoming nature to the globe.

For players, it would be a great World Cup to play in. I was fortunate to compete on the hallowed Croke Park turf on a couple of occasions and I know that the world's best would also take great pleasure in running out at Jones' Rd or many of our other venues across the country.

Imagine having Croke Park packed to the rafters for a clash between New Zealand and Australia, or Casement Park buzzing for a crucial pool game - it would be absolutely phenomenal.

Supporters will similarly find the logistics of getting around our small island a lot more manageable than at previous tournaments.

You can travel from Belfast to Cork in a few hours, for example. You could take in a match at the Kingspan one day and see another game the next day at the other end of the country without needing to take a flight or tackle a draining car journey.

There are plenty of reasons for being confident that this Irish bid will be successful. I'm sure our neighbours will get behind it too, particularly after hearing British Prime Minister Theresa May declare her support yesterday.

England, Scotland and Wales would benefit from having a Rugby World Cup just across the Irish Sea too, and having English Rugby Football Union, who have three votes, behind the Irish bid would be a great advantage.

There are 37 votes and we've got to get 19. I'm nervous because it's all new territory but confident because I know the kind of package we can offer.

The IRFU seem to have put us in a winning position, now we just have to hope the bid gets over the line.

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