Revealed: Just eight votes for Ireland's 2023 Rugby World Cup bid as France awarded hosting rights
Ireland promised to deliver a "tournament like no other" but there will be no Rugby World Cup in Ireland in 2023 after France were awarded the tournament by the World Rugby Council in London on Wednesday.
Ireland received just eight votes in the first count compared to France's 18 and 13 for South Africa with France winning out 24-15 in the second round of voting.
The council's decision to award France the tournament brings down the curtain on a four-year process for the Irish bid which first started in November 2013 when then Minister for Sport, and current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, confirmed government plans to bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup as standalone hosts using GAA and rugby stadia north and south of the border as the backbone of the Irish bid.
Ireland's bid was then dealt a significant blow last month when an independent bid evaluation report rated the South African bid as the best on offer to World Rugby.
The host candidate evaluation assessed a series of categories - such as hosting concept, tournament schedule and host cities - and each was weighted as a percentage and then combined, with South Africa receiving the highest mark of 78.97 per cent, with France on 75.88 per cent and Ireland 72.25 per cent.
The Irish bid particularly struggled with venues and host cities while the bid also paled with regards to tournament infrastructure.
In response to the technical review group recommendation, IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne outlined grave concerns the IRFU had about the process behind the recommendation.
In his letter, Mr Browne asked for specific responses to nine separate questions around issues where the IRFU felt the report came up short and he also questioned whether South Africa’s capacity to fill their stadiums formed part of the report, and whether issues surrounding security were thoroughly considered.
World Rugby acknowledged the letter last week and said that 'it had addressed in full, clarification requests by the Rugby World Cup 2023 host candidates and council members'.
The 10th edition of the tournament coincides with the 200th anniversary of the birth of the sport, when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it during a game of football at Rugby School.
World Rugby president Bill Beaumont said: "We've been fortunate to have three great bids. There's going to be two countries extremely disappointed.
"Certainly delighted for France. It will be a really exciting tournament."
France and Ireland had contested the independent evaluation committee's preference for South Africa and both remained confident of winning the race on Wednesday.
But it was France who proved most persuasive as the voting delegates opted against following the advice to choose South Africa, which hosted the tournament in 1995.
The 2023 tournament follows the 2019 edition, which takes place in Japan.
England hosted the most recent tournament, in 2015, when New Zealand won a second successive title after victory on home soil in 2011.
Beaumont had emphasised the "transparent selection process" before announcing the host, when World Rugby's member nations went against the recommendation.
The move could be seen as embarrassing for the sport's world governing body.
Beaumont disputed suggestions the vote made a mockery of the process.
Speaking at a media conference, the Englishman said: "Not really. If you look there wasn't a great deal between France and South Africa in the evaluation report. It was very close.
"We feel the process has been absolutely transparent. Everyone's been able to see how the scoring was."