Ireland's World Cup bid boosted as governments pledge £120m
Ireland has formally submitted its bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, having secured a commitment from the governments in Belfast and Dublin to pay the £120million tournament fee.
The Irish bid, detailed in a 990-page candidature file, is up against strong opposition from France and South Africa, with World Rugby voting to decide a winner on November 15 in London.
Dublin's Croke Park, the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, would be the centrepiece of an Irish Rugby World Cup and is considered to be one of the bid's strongest cards, as it is Europe's third biggest stadium.
There are 11 other venues on the bid's long list, including three in Northern Ireland.
In a statement, Ireland's outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "This bid has the total support of the Irish government. We can guarantee that Ireland has the capacity to deliver a wonderful Rugby World Cup in 2023 which will have the backing of people throughout the island.
"We will welcome the world to our shores and encourage interest in rugby like never before."
Sir Malcolm McKibbin, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, said hosting the event would give the island "an unprecedented opportunity to showcase our sporting talent and world-class tourism on a global stage".
The bid book itself was delivered to World Rugby's headquarters in Dublin by a delegation which included 120 children carrying flags to represent every rugby-playing nation. Also in the delegation were Irish RFU president Stephen Hilditch, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and former captain Brian O'Driscoll.
The bid's organisers claim the tournament would attract more than 450,000 extra visitors to the island and be worth £1.3billion to the economy.
Hilditch said: "Ireland has never hosted a Rugby World Cup and we believe choosing Ireland as a first-time host would be a forward step and a signal that rugby is a truly global game for all."