Belfast Telegraph

Kenny confident over rugby 2023 bid

Ireland's all-island bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 will be impossible to resist, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted.

The Irish premier expressed bullish confidence the sporting showpiece could be secured as he and counterparts from the Northern Ireland Executive pledged their support.

"This is a bid to win," he said.

"In 2023 it will be in Ireland - I have no doubt. I know in my heart we are going to win."

He added: "Ireland will put together a winning bid that will be impossible to resist. We have the fans, the stadiums, and the accessibility to make it a World Cup to remember."

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) today formally announced its intention to bid for the tournament at a launch event in Armagh.

The bid will not have to be submitted to the game's governing body, World Rugby, until 2016 with a decision expected in 2017.

While Ireland would have to pay at least £100 million to host the event, politicians from both sides of the border today insisted the price would be worth it, as the tournament would ultimately generate more for the island's economy.

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said there would undoubtedly by cynics who would question such a potential outlay in times of austerity

"Not only is there a fantastic payback in terms of the economy, the boost it will give to the tourist industry from one end of the island to the other... but it also allows us to showcase the island," he said at the event at the Royal School Armagh.

He added: "It would be a tremendous achievement to see the IRFU host the Rugby World Cup 2023.

"This bid shows the ambition of the Northern Ireland Executive and our determination to bring world-class international sporting events to Northern Ireland."

As well as the traditional rugby stadiums such as the Aviva in Dublin, the Kingspan at Ravenhill in Belfast and Thomond Park in Limerick, a 2023 World Cup in Ireland would hope to utilise a number of impressive Gaelic football venues, including the 82,300-capacity Croke Park in Dublin.

No other rugby nations have officially declared their hand in regard to a rival bid for 2023, but South Africa, Argentina, Italy, USA and France have all been mooted.

Stormont's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness praised the co-operation between the IRFU and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

"Rest assured, we will put together a robust and compelling bid to bring this sporting spectacle to Ireland," he said.

"This bid shows Ireland has the appetite to host an international sporting event on a scale never seen before in our history and we are determined to make it a winning bid."

Mr McGuinness noted that the bid had been announced just one week after the death at the age of 88 of arguably Ireland's greatest ever player, Jack Kyle.

"I think Jack is up above smiling down at what has happened here this morning," he said.

Current Irish internationals Andrew Trimble, Robbie Henshaw, Jordi Murphy and Paddy Jackson attended the bid launch announcement.

The 21-year-old Connacht star Henshaw said it would be a dream to play in a home world cup in nine years.

"It would be amazing, playing in front of the crowds in the Aviva at the moment the atmosphere there is unbelievable, so I can hardly imagine what it would be like playing there when there is a World Cup hosted in our country," he said. "It's just going to be probably ten times better."

Ulster winger Trimble, who will be 39 in 2023, conceded playing would be bridge too far.

"It's something that's probably too late for me to be involved but definitely as a spectator I would be pretty excited about it," he said.

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: "The Irish Rugby Football Union believes that Ireland, and its people, will make the perfect hosts for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"We believe it is opportune for us now to put forward Ireland's undoubted credentials to host world rugby's showpiece."

Along with the IRFU, the political administrations north and south had been engaged in a preliminary assessment exercise over the last 10 months to weigh up the feasibility of submitting an official bid.

In February, former Irish international star Hugo MacNeill was asked to chair the cross-border working group examining the issue.

Next year's Rugby World Cup will be hosted by England, with Japan hosting the event in 2019.

At the launch event, Mr McGuinness also paid tribute to former Royal School Armagh pupil John McCall.

The 18-year-old died on a rugby field playing for Ireland in South Africa 10 years ago, just weeks after captaining his school to victory in the Ulster Schools Cup final.

Mr McGuinness said the World Cup bid team wanted to replicate the "ambition, drive and desire" the schoolboy had shown on the pitch.

"His many achievements in such a short life I think will forever be respected and remembered," he said.

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