In a highly irregular and unlikely turn of events, France was announced as the hosts for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
South Africa, who was “unanimously” recommended as preferred hosts two weeks ago following an intensive bidding process, lost out in what is likely to be viewed as a shock announcement. It is the first time that a recommended candidate has not been awarded the rights to host.
The vote had to go through two rounds of voting with France winning 18 votes in the first round, South Africa 13 and Ireland eight. Ireland was then eliminated and the vote was a straight shootout between South Africa and France. The European country came out tops with 24 votes.
World Rugby’s report ranked South Africa top on a wide range of criteria, ranging from stadiums to financial assurances.
Fellow bidders France and Ireland were ranked second and third respectively and both countries were seething after the initial announcement.
Ireland, in particular, fumed and wrote a letter to World Rugby claiming the report’s findings did not accurately represent the apparent risks that would come with hosting a World Cup in South Africa.
France, meanwhile, fumed over how they were being “punished for being too strict on anti-doping”.
World Rugby responded and clarified their position and defended the report and the decision went to the 39 votes by the World Rugby Council.
South Africa was widely expected to be named as hosts and what exactly has changed in the last two weeks is not yet clear.