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It’s fair to say 2017 won’t go down in the annals of Irish rugby as a vintage year. After an underwhelm­ing Six Nations campaign, there was yet more disappoint­ment when our bid for the 2023 World Cup was turned down in favour of France.

After all the hoopla and the specially recorded video messages from the likes of Bob Geldof and Bono, the World Rugby Council opted against Ireland, with infrastruc­tural concerns chief among the reasons cited.

And it all started so well. Commenting on the bid beforehand, Leo Varadkar said, “We have the infrastruc­ture, we have fabulous stadiums, we have the best fans. Ireland is a rugby-crazy nation. We’ve never hosted before... and I think we have the best financial bid.” Oh dear.

Elsewhere, the much-hyped Women’s Rugby World Cup turned into a damp squib, with Ireland under-performing amid low attendance­s. As the man says, things can only get better.

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