Belfast Telegraph

Biting back: Don't put Rugby World Cup ahead of home sports

By Graham Luney

You can reach out and touch the excitement. Ireland, north and south, hosting a Rugby World Cup in 2023.

They were dancing on the streets of Armagh last week as the big political hitters threw their weight behind this ambitious goal.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the finest rugby players in the world showcasing their talent on these shores and Northern Ireland does love a big sporting event to give us some welcome release from the sectarian claptrap we have to listen to on a daily basis.

There’s nothing wrong in thinking, and indeed dreaming big, but these things come at a cost ­— and a Rugby World Cup comes at a huge cost.

IRFU Chief executive Philip Browne said the two governments will expect to commit £100million to underwrite the possibility of staging the tournament.

That’s a big chunk of dosh, ironically disclosed in Armagh, a city which is rumoured to be losing its bus services because of cutbacks.

And if we want to be really cynical about it, the glamour matches in the World Cup will take place in the south, not in the Kingspan Stadium nor even a new-look Casement Park.

It would be great to see rugby’s global showpiece on our shores, but let’s not forget about sport at grassroots level and our own events such as the Milk Cup and North West 200, the same sport which has given us a sense of belonging, purpose and pride.

We can think big, but must never neglect the small.

Let’s host the Rugby World Cup, but not at the expense of watching our homegrown sport wither and die.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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