'Ranking Ireland as an equal security risk to South Africa just seems crazy' - Hugo MacNeill on Evaluation report
Former Ireland international Hugo MacNeill has criticised the evaluation report from World Rugby's technical review group claiming that ranking Ireland as an equal security risk to South Africa is crazy.
The Irish bid was given the same score under security as both South Africa and France, while Ireland's 13.63% represented the lowest score of the 'Tournament infrastructure' section of the report, which accounts for areas such as security, transport, accommodation, technology, rugby services and ticket strategy.
MacNeill, who chaired the government's working group on the bid to host the 2023 World Cup, questioned how Ireland were scored the same as South Africa and France under the security criteria when both countries trailed Ireland on the World Peace Index.
"There was a lot of things that surprised us, and not only surprised us, but surprised a lot of people around the world, because we've got a lot feedback on this," McNeill said on Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1.
"Ranking Ireland as an equal security risk to South Africa just seems crazy. The World Peace Index - which is the most respected index on security issues - ranks Ireland as the 10th safest country in the world, France as the 51st safest country in the world, and South Africa is the 123rd safest country in the world."
South African sports minister Thulas Nxesi downplayed those concerns claiming that South Africa has an extended history of 'incident-free mega events'.
"They alleged that our country was grossly ill-prepared to host such a big event," said Nxesi.
"They further declared our country to be the crime capital of the world. They prophesised impending doom and gloom that would befall the tournament, and to tourists and fans coming to our shores.
International Rugby Newsletter
"We have a long history of major, incident-free mega events."
Last week IRFU chief executive Philip Browne wrote to World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper outlining grave concerns he had about the process behind the recommendation.
Browne raised a number of issues he had with the report and with regards to his security concerns, the IRFU chief asked if an “independently recognised, world-class security organisation” was used to review the underlying security situation in each country.
He also asked that if such an assessment did take place, could World Rugby please share this assessment.
Ireland's Rugby World Cup bid chairman Dick Spring also raised particular concerns about the way in which the security section of the report was evaluated in a letter he wrote to members of the World Rugby Council earlier this month.
"We are amazed at the analysis of security issues as contained in the Evaluation Report, given that it gives a similar security scoring to all three candidates," Spring wrote.
"The Global Peace Index, recognised as the world's most trustworthy measurement, places Ireland at 10th, France at 51st and South Africa at 123rd.
"This index gauges security using three key themes: the level of safety and security in society (personal security); the extent of domestic and international conflict (national security); and the degree of militarisation. None of these important factors are properly addressed in the World Rugby report."
Spring's letter also pointed out that South Africa has been stripped of the 2022 Commonwealth Games which were due to be held in Durban.
"We do not raise these issues lightly," Spring wrote.
"But all of us who have worked on the Irish bid believe that one of the greatest aspects of rugby is its unique sense of fair play – and that you, as voters, should have these important facts in front of you to ensure this standard.
"We remain totally convinced that Ireland offers you the best possible option for the 2023 Rugby World Cup – one that has several unique aspects that could never be scored in a narrow report.
"Rather than rely solely on the findings of this consultant-dominated report we ask, in a spirit reflecting all that is great about Rugby, that you consider our bid in full and then exert your right to vote in the best interests of rugby and the Rugby World Cup.
"Let me leave you with the words of Albert Einstein as you review the report and ponder probably the most important decision you will face for World Rugby this decade:
"'Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted'."
Members of the Council will decide the hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in London on November 15.