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Sanity must prevail in 2023 bid race

South Africa have earned the right to host the 2023 World Cup and must be favourites to win the vote in London on Wednesday, writes JON CARDINELLI in Paris for SARugbyMag

These are interesting times to be on tour with the Springboks. For the past seven days, the IRFU as well as certain sectors of the Irish media have gone to extreme and at times bizarre lengths to attack and discredit South Africa’s bid for the 2023 World Cup.

Some of those on the ground in Dublin have admitted that the whole ‘counter-attack’ has been out of character for the Ireland officials and that it may have affected relationships with World Rugby and SA Rugby. Others, like former Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy, have highlighted the fact that Ireland – with only two venues currently in place – simply aren’t ready to host a tournament of this magnitude.

South Africa was named the preferred host candidate on 31 October. A successful track record of  hosting sporting events such as the 2010 Fifa World Cup has counted in their favour. The fact that their stadiums are already built and ready to host World Cup games ‘tomorrow’ is being viewed as a massive positive.

There have been setbacks in Japan, and at this stage it seems likely that the 2019 World Cup will not match the financial and commercial successes of the 2015 tournament in England. As a result, World Rugby wants to avoid the risk of taking Ireland at their word when they say they will be up to speed in six years’ time.

South Africa, and to a lesser extent France, are safer bets, having hosted major sporting events in the past. Given that Ireland were ranked third after the evaluation process, it would come as a shock if the council proceeded to ignore the recommendation and vote for Ireland to host the tournament.

There will be fireworks on 15 November in London regardless of the result. Ireland won’t be happy if South Africa or France get the bid. France have already criticised the evaluation process and may have more to say if the vote goes against them.

South Africa, after being named the preferred candidate, will have every right to feel aggrieved if they don’t get the tournament. The bid team has been relatively quiet since 31 October and – understandably – unwilling to engage in the debate. If things go wrong on Wednesday, though, one would expect South Africa to break their silence.

World Rugby will also be sweating in the lead-up to the announcement. Indeed, what would it say about their evaluation process if the recommendation was not upheld? A vote against the recommendation would amount to a vote of no confidence in the game’s leadership.

THE VOTING PROCESS

The final decision rests with 26 World Rugby Council members who collectively exercise 39 votes and among whom a simple majority is required to secure the hosting rights. The three bidding countries do not vote.

Those eligible to vote in the secret ballot on 15 November are: Australia (3 votes), England (3), New Zealand (3), Scotland (3), Wales (3), Italy (3), Argentina (3), Canada (1), Japan (2), Georgia (1), Romania (1), USA (1), Asia Rugby (2), Oceania Rugby (2), Rugby Africa (2), Rugby Americas North (2), Rugby Europe (2), Sudamerica Rugby (2).

The announcement is scheduled for approximately 15h00 (SA time) on Wednesday.

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