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Liam Neeson backing all-Ireland Rugby World Cup bid

Published 15/11/2016

Ireland could play World Cup matches at Croke Park in 2023
Ireland could play World Cup matches at Croke Park in 2023

Liam Neeson is backing Ireland's bid to host the Rugby World Cup 2023.

The Hollywood star narrates a short film being used to pitch the country against South Africa and France for the tournament.

Launching a final push for what would be the biggest event ever put on in Ireland, rugby chiefs revealed the 12 venues that would host the matches.

Derry's Celtic Park was a surprise inclusion while uncertainty hangs over Belfast's Casement Park, which has yet to be built.

Flagship venues include Croke Park - one of Europe's largest stadiums and home to the Gaelic Athletic Association - as well as rugby HQ Lansdowne Road in Dublin.

Irish premier Enda Kenny said the all-Ireland bid, supported by the governments in Belfast and Dublin, showed how sport could "bind up wounds and heal difficulties".

"This is not going to be easy," he said. "But we have every reason to believe we will win the right to host World Cup 2023."

Mr Kenny said he was excited about the bid and urged Ireland's 80 million strong diaspora to "pull on the green jersey" to get behind the push.

The winning bid will be announced in November next year.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was confident about Ireland's prospects.

"If it does come it will be massive for our economy, it will be massive for tourism, it will be massive for our sport and massive for our people," he added.

Noting the inclusion of his native Derry's Celtic Park, he added: "Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a Rugby World Cup match played in that city. And wouldn't it be even more wonderful to see Casement Park built."

He joked: "I hope whatever judge is in charge of whatever appeal goes to the courts is a rugby fan."

Philip Browne, chief executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), confirmed the Irish government has underwritten the £120million tournament fee.

But he said with two million tickets to sell and a knock-on impact on the economy, the six-week competition would be worth 800 million euro (£692million) to Ireland.

Because of the close proximity to England, Scotland and Wales, Mr Browne predicted an Irish World Cup would be the best ever attended.

"It is probably the biggest event Ireland could ever hope to host," he added.

One of Ireland's biggest selling points is that the 12 long-listed venues are all central locations and fans would not need to travel far from their lodgings.

World Cup bosses will ultimately choose the venues which would probably be whittled down to between eight and 10, Mr Browne said.

Others include Belfast's Ravenhill, Dublin's RDS, Kilkenny's Nowlan Park, Cork's Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Killarney's Fitzgerald Stadium, Limerick's Thomond Park, Galway's Pearse Stadium and Castlebar's McHale Park.

"When you match up the big GAA stadia with the big rugby stadia we have an ideal mix of venues," said Mr Browne.

Sports Minister Shane Ross admitted work is needed on some stadiums but added: "We have got seven years still to do this, it is a long run-in and we will be well prepared for it."

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