France has been selected to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, ahead of South Africa and Ireland.
France, which previously hosted the tournament in 2007, beat its rivals in a secret ballot by the World Rugby Council in London this morning.
While a stable candidate, France were not the favourite to host the event, with South Africa being nominated as the preferred host by World Rugby earlier this month.
An evaluation report undertaken by World Rugby and third-party experts last month had unanimously picked South Africa as the “optimal choice” for the tenth edition of the tournament, prompting a critical response from the French bid on certain key points.
However, there were safety concerns over the decision, and that, amongst other factors, would have swayed the vote France’s way.
France federation president Bernard Laporte has claimed the document contained “blatant errors”, and the federation would have been lobbying hard behind the scenes to earn support on the secret ballot.
As it happened, France was the most popular in the first phase of voting, winning 18 votes, with South Africa claiming 13, and the third candidate, Ireland, being eliminated with eight votes.
In the final phase, France claimed 24 votes, with South Africa earning just 15.
New Zealand Rugby revealed to the Herald before the vote that they were planning to vote for South Africa.
“From a New Zealand point of view our board made a decision early on that if the process was seen to have worked well and been done fairly and professionally then it would be very hard not to vote the way of the recommendation,” NZR CEO Steve Tew told the Herald.
“While the scores are relatively close there was a clear margin. South Africa is the best candidate so we’ll be guided by the recommendation and vote accordingly.”
Despite that support, the All Blacks will be travelling to France in 2023.
It means France will host prestigious events back-to-back, with the 2024 Olympic Games being held in Paris.