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Today, Monday, September 25, 2017, World Rugby received final presentation bids for the 2023 Rugby World Cup from France, Ireland, and South Africa. The World Rugby Selection Committee, comprised of 37 nations, will vote on these applicants. Nineteen votes, a majority of one, is needed to determine the winner. The announcement will be November 15, 2017.

South Africa last hosted the event in 1995, a home win against the All Blacks, made memorable by Nelson Mandela presenting the William Webb Ellis Trophy to Francois Pienaar, the Springboks’ Captain.

France last hosted the tournament in 2007, achieving a record high attendance at that time of 2,363 million, a record topped by England’s 2015 RWC tally, which totaled 2,478 million.

Ireland have never run a RWC solo, but partnered with other nations in 1991.

Each of these countries posted promised revenues with South Africa tops at £160 million, France at £150 million, and Ireland third at £120 million.

Importantly, South Africa hosted the FIFA soccer football World Cup in 2015. And France will host the 2024 summer Olympics, a year after the 2023 RWC. 

World Rugby generates the largest percentage of its revenues from this quadrennial event, and total attendance remains a prime variable to determine which nation wins the bid. In 2011, when the tournament moved to New Zealand, which offered few medium sized stadiums, total attendance declined to 1,478 million, a drastic 38% drop from France in 2007. Part of the 2011 decline also, was a shortfall of tourists making the long trip.

World Rugby took some risk when it awarded Japan the RWC venue in 2019. No one knows how the Japanese public will respond, nor the number of rugby tourists it will attract, especially from Europe. And that’s the rub for the 2023 selection; if Japan’s RWC underperforms in 2019, it will inhibit World Rugby’s expansion and funding plans for the next four-years. Another worry is that visitors to Japan might prefer to wait a year for the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo.

To hedge the 2019 Japanese bet, is the savvy choice for 2023 to pick a proven France that could break the 2.5 million attendance level?

These are the official seven variables the Committee will use to decide:

1.      Venues and infrastructure commensurate with a top-tier major event;

2.      Comprehensive and enforceable public and private sector guarantees;

3.      A commercially successful event with a fully funded, robust financial model;

4.      Operational excellence through an integrated and experienced delivery team;

5.      A vision that engages and inspires domestic and international audiences and contributes to the growth of rugby at all levels;

6.      An enabling environment of political and financial stability that respects the diversity of Rugby World Cup’s global stakeholders; and,

7.      An environment and climate suited to top-level sport in a geography that allows maximum fan mobility.