For an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence, some­where like Fitzger­ald Sta­dium in Kil­lar­ney would look prim­i­tive on TV

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

was made of the politi­cal op­por­tu­nity — how, as an all-Ire­land ini­tia­tive, backed by politi­cians on both sides of the bor­der and heav­ily pro­moted by the tourism bod­ies — this glit­ter­ing tour­na­ment could help heal old di­vi­sions.

“Af­ter the com­plex his­tory of this is­land over the past 100 years, there would be some­thing very spe­cial about the tour­na­ment be­ing held here and I think it’s some­thing that will be con­sid­ered in the shake-up,” a top IRFU of­fi­cial told Re­view a cou­ple of weeks ago.

It was also hoped that the pres­ence of Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar at the of­fi­cial bid sub­mis­sion in Lon­don last month, along­side ‘am­bas­sador’ Brian O’Driscoll, would help Ire­land’s case.

Varad­kar — who was min­is­ter for sport when it was first mooted that Ire­land should bid for the 2023 tour­na­ment — spoke per­sua­sively about how a World Cup on this is­land would be un­like any other, and it was felt his pres­ence helped with the ‘op­tics’ the French bid so pal­pa­bly lacked.

Its president, Em­manuel Macron, was con­spic­u­ously ab­sent and, fur­ther­more, had not con­trib­uted to the French pro­mo­tional videos. It was re­ported that Macron had been keen to dis­tance him­self from Bernard La­porte, president of the French Rugby Fed­er­a­tion, who has been em­broiled in con­tro­versy hav­ing al­legedly used his in­flu­ence to have a €70,000 fine handed down to Mont­pel­lier re­duced to €20,000.

In­stead, like the South African bid, France promised to get the cheque­book out. They pledged to over­pay by €33m the €135m fee re­quired by World Rugby to host the tour­na­ment. And, in the event, South Africa com­mit­ted even more money in their bid.

Many, in­clud­ing former in­ter­na­tional Tony Ward — now an Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent columnist — as­sumed that be­cause both South Africa and France had pre­vi­ously held the tour­na­ment, or­gan­is­ers would be keen to ven­ture into un­char­tered ter­ri­tory.

And, yet, it may have been fears about when Ja­pan takes the man­tle in 2019 that helped make the tech­ni­cal group jit­tery about a World Cup here. Progress has been be­hind sched­ule in Ja­pan and there have been con­cerns that the coun­try’s eye is not on the oval ball game, but rather the Tokyo Olympics which will take place in 2020.

Rather than be se­duced by the idea of un­char­tered wa­ters, the as­ses­sors noted the ex­pe­ri­ence South Africa and France have when it comes to not just host­ing the Rugby World Cup but the much larger foot­ball equiv­a­lent, too. Ire­land’s track record with the Spe­cial Olympics, Ry­der Cup and open­ing stages of cy­cling’s Giro d’Italia was recorded, but it was pointed out that such events pale into com­par­i­son with the world’s fourth largest sport­ing tour­na­ment.

“The bid was cen­tred on emo­tion,” says Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent rugby cor­re­spon­dent Rúaidhrí O’Con­nor, “but that was never some­thing the tech­ni­cal group were go­ing to con­sider. It’s dis­ap­point­ing, though, that Ire­land wasn’t able to show it was a much safer lo­ca­tion than ei­ther France or South Africa.”

And while O’Con­nor says few could ar­gue that our sta­dia don’t match up to the com­pe­ti­tion, they are su­pe­rior to those of New Zealand, which hosted the tour­na­ment in 2011. “Our lesser sta­di­ums are bet­ter than their weaker ones,” he says, “and our bet­ter sta­di­ums are bet­ter than their bet­ter ones.”

But it now looks un­likely that Croke Park, Thomond Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be host­ing a tour­na­ment to re­mem­ber in six years’ time.

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