France to host 2023 Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup
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by Beth Newman

France will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, in a shock selection announced on Wednesday.

It's a surprise move, after South Africa was announced as the World Rugby board's recommendation just two weeks ago, after a scorecard process covering a number of different areas.

This will be the second time France has been a major host of the tournament, 16 years after staging the 2007 tournament, ironically won by South Africa.

Questions were raised about World Rugby's selection process after the announcement, with a two-week gap between the technical recommendation and the vote giving France and Ireland the chance to voice their criticisms and rally extra support.

South Africa believed it had a '99 per cent' chance of winning after taking out that first recommendation, describing the last two weeks as 'opaque' compared to a previously transparent process.

See how the announcement unfolded in the early hours of this morning, AEDT.

1:15am - South Africa surprised by loss

South Africa Rugby president Mark Alexander says that World Rugby rules of conduct were broken in the weeks between the World Rugby recommendation and today's announcement.

Both Ireland and France voiced their anger over South Africa winning that recommendation, and Alexander said they had broken protocol in the process.

"At no point in time did South Africa attack any of the other bidders," he said.

"You can read the articles, find the things on the websites.

"It's disappointing that we run the race with a set of rules and we have to stick to those rules."

Alexander said he felt they were '99 per cent' certain of taking the hosting rights after winning the initial recommendation. 

SA Rugby Jurie Roux said they were gutted but respect the process, with all candidates agreeing to it at the start of the bidding.

"I'm still figuring out the worse loss, last weekend (against Ireland) or today," he said.

"It’s about council members exercising their right hey have. We agreed to that process and you can’t agree to a process and cry foul afterwards."

Roux says South Africa would definitely consider bidding again.

1:01am - Ireland reacts to missing out on 2023 Rugby World CUp

IRFU CEO Philip Browne passed on his congratulations to France to start with, but expressed disappointment at missing out.

With just eight votes, it is certain that Ireland didn't have the full complement of votes from their UK neighbours, but Browne said that wasn't a surprise.

"Scotland wanted to wait until evaluation report and consistently said they would go with the bid that would produce the greatest Rugby World Cup revenue," he said.

"Wales wanted to see evaluation report and out come and was probably duty bound to support Gareth Davies on the board of Rugby World Cup and part of evaluation process."

Browne said it was too early to say whether Ireland would bid again but says Rugby World Cup organisers need to decide what they want out of the tournament most when it comes to future hosts, with a commercial focus potentially costing countries like Ireland or New Zealand.

12:48am - France reacts to winning 2023 Rugby World Cup bid

All smiles in France. Photo: Getty Images"It’s not the process that was not fair it's some aspects of the process that we did not find fair," he said.

"It's not the whole project

"We asked Bill Beaumont, and they said we would do a debrief to see what was good and what was not.

"It was obvious we did dispute some aspects. I'm not saying that’s why we won. World Rugby replied to our letter, we communicated on the misunderstanding.

"Maybe it helped us, maybe."

12:28am - World Rugby reaction

Rugby World Cup boss Alan Gilpin says there's no reason Ireland couldn't host the tournament further down the track.

France and South Africa have both hosted major international events in the past or will be doing so very soon, in the case of the Paris Olympics.

Gilpin said that wasn't necessarily the be all end all of the process.

"It happened that France and South Africa had the edge in terms of experience but not to say that Ireland couldn't host it," he said.

The issue of the secret ballot has become a touch point, given World Rugby has spruiked such a transparent process.

World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper said the secret ballot was decided to be the best way to allow council members to vote 'without fear'. 

Beaumont adamant there was 'no humiliation' despite the council going against the World Rugby recommendation for the first time in history.

12:24 AM - World Rugby reaction

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, CEO Brett Gosper, vice-chairman Agustin Pichot and head of Rugby World Cup, Alan Gilpin.

Beaumont has dismissed the idea that the rejection of the public recommendation makes a mockery of it, and continues to emphasise the transparency of the process.

"I think that if you look there wasn't a great deal between France and South Africa in the evaluation report," he said.

"It was very close and the council members looked at that and from our point of view we feel the process has been absolutely transparent.

"Everybody's been able to see the scoring , they mightn't have liked certain aspects (but) I don't think it has anything to do with the process we've gone through."

12:11 AM - 2023 Rugby World Cup hosting votes

The votes are in. Photo: Getty Images

1st round: France 18, Ireland 8, South Africa 13

2nd round: France 24, South Africa 15

In the initial recommendation, France finished second and Ireland third, behind South Africa, with both vocally critical of the final scorecard.

While South Africa came in as the hot favourite, there were reports as late as Tuesday night that France and Ireland were closing in, but few expected the council to veer away from World Rugby's recommendation a fortnight ago.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said the process has been the most transparent yet, with a scorecard available to the public after the first World Rugby recommendation.

"We feel for the first time in World Rugby we've put the results of our evaluation process out to the public so everyone could see," he said.

The past two votes have gone the same way as their preceding recommendations, with England and Japan being given hosting rights for 2015 and 2019.

You can watch a replay of the announcement below.