IRFU chief Browne ups ante in World Cup bid by posing serious questions of review group recommendation
With a week to go until the World Rugby Council vote on the right to host the 2023 World Cup, the IRFU has upped the ante in its pursuit of the tournament.
Union chief executive Philip Browne has written to World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, posing serious questions of the Rugby World Cup Ltd technical review group recommendation that South Africa is the preferred bidder for the tournament.
Browne copied World Rugby Council members on his letter, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, to ensure the delegates who vote next Wednesday are aware of Ireland's grave concerns about the process behind the recommendation.
The technical review group's report was introduced for the first time for the 2023 vote in an attempt to make the process as transparent as possible, but since the recommendation the process has come under scrutiny from Ireland and France who missed out on the decision.
Echoing bid chairman Dick Spring's letter to Council members last week, Browne has questioned whether South Africa's capacity to fill their stadiums formed part of the report.
He also asked if issues surrounding security were thoroughly considered, how the decision to take the 2022 Commonwealth Games off Durban merited so little mention in the report and whether South Africa's 'junk' status was properly taken into account.
In the letter, Browne looks for specific responses to nine separate questions around issues where the IRFU felt the report came up short.
He has also asked that World Rugby remind Council members that the recommendation is not binding and that next week’s private vote in order to disabuse them of the notion that a vote for Ireland is not in keeping with the voting process.
He reminds Gosper of World Rugby’s own communications state that countries are “required to consider the Evaluation Commission recommendation”, but that they “may vote on all bids”.
The Irish union are looking for firm responses around their concerns to be circulated to Council members who will vote on the tournament hosting rights in London in a week’s time.
Thirty-nine votes are at stake, with the four remaining Six Nations countries (England, Wales, Scotland, Italy) and the three other SANZAAR countries (Australia, New Zealand, Argentina) holding three votes each. Six regional associations and the Japanese union have two votes each, while Georgia, Canada, the United States and Romania have one vote each.
The winning country needs 20 votes and if one bid does not achieve this total at the first count, then the bottom bid will be excluded.
Yesterday the government recommitted its “absolute commitment” to hosting the tournament and echoed the union’s concerns.
“The Government has been informed by the Bid Oversight Board that the IRFU have reservations about a number of important aspects of the evaluation report,” a statement read.