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Comment: Ireland's World Cup snub is rugby's loss but we should try again for 2027

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

There are no two ways about it, yesterday's recommendation was a kick in the teeth. However, it's not just a setback for rugby on this island, but for the game as a whole.

World Rugby have missed the boat. The top dollar is always going to carry sway but in terms of the overall package on offer it would be a shame for Ireland not to host the Rugby World Cup in six years' time.

From the perspective of supporters, it's not a contest.

While South Africa is a wonderful place to visit, it's not as well suited for an overall tournament experience. In terms of atmosphere, Ireland and South Africa are chalk and cheese.

The multi-tiered nature of the Rugby World Cup means that any host nation needs to have a vast array of stadia, whether it is to accommodate more than 60,000 in the final or 15,000 for a pool game.

I remember working in Nelson, New Zealand for a Pool C game between Italy and Russia six years ago. The odds were against both sides progressing after early losses but that didn't stop a carnival atmosphere developing at the 18,000-capacity Trafalgar Stadium.

With 12,400 in attendance the place was only two-thirds full, but it was a more than acceptable venue for such a game. Similarly, the likes of Celtic Park, the RDS and Kingspan Stadium would be ideal.

In contrast, South Africa have proposed eight stadia for the 2023 World Cup, all of them with a capacity above 40,000.

Consider watching a pool encounter between the US and Tonga in front of 30,000 empty seats. What good would that do for the game, and the perception of its biggest tournament?

Another strength of the Irish bid is the lack of safety concerns for supporters in and around match venues.

Logistically, our stadia lend themselves for fans to walk to games at their leisure.

Compare that to Ellis Park in Johannesburg, where you cannot walk outside the stadium because of safety fears.

It's an incredible stadium once you're inside but when you leave you have to get straight on a bus or in a car.

I genuinely believe that we could host an incredible World Cup and after yesterday's verdict it looks like we will need a huge turnaround to make that happen any time soon.

Some people may argue that the €4m we spent on the bid could have been used better but I still think it was the right decision to go for such a big event. And if we don't get it this time around, I'd like to see us try again for 2027.

Japan didn't get the nod in 2015 but stuck at it and their persistence paid off.

Despite my concerns, South Africa is a wonderful place and crucially, they are offering more money.

World Rugby want to make the tournament a commercial success, and as it looks like Japan will make a loss in two years' time, alarm bells could well be ringing with Ireland offering the lowest amount for 2023, £40m (€46m) less than South Africa and £30m (€34m) less than France.

It seems that we have also fallen down on concerns about our stadia being ready in time but with six years to go, it shouldn't be a major factor.

Just because France and South Africa have hosted it before doesn't mean we should get it, you have to prove you would be the best hosts - but I believe we would be. We would have generated a lot of revenue and could have ticked boxes and it's a shame that it looks like we won't get the opportunity.

We're not out of the race yet but we have a lot of ground to make up. However, if we do fall short we need to go for 2027.

Belfast Telegraph

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