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Irish eyes are not smiling, the nation finished in third place in the contest for hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup. South Africa won the Rugby World Cup Limited recommendation, which will be voted by the World Rugby Council membership on November 15. But, for all intents and purposes, South Africa emerged the winner, with France in second place. 

The RWC chosen tournament nation keeps the lion’s share of attendance and merchandising sales, paying World Rugby a hosting fee. World Rugby generates extensive revenue from licensing global television rights. It is estimated that in 2015 the RWC in England achieved more than 4.2 billion total views worldwide from the event’s 48-matches. The final – New Zealand and Australia – generated a 120 million global viewing audience.

Holding the tournament represents an income and job bonanza to the host nation, adding millions of dollars to that year’s GDP. England added $133 million from the 2015 RWC, and an additional 41,000 new jobs. The fan and tourist monies were also significant.

Ireland chose to host the 2017 Women’s World Cup played in Dublin with the semis and final matches in Belfast. The stadium in Belfast seated about 19,000. The Irish were keen to show it could handle the Women’s RWC event.

In the final decision, World Rugby awarded the RWC in 2023 to South Africa, which last hosted the event in 1995. Many perceived that after a 24-year wait, it was time to return the tournament to the home of the Springbok. In addition, part of the decision must have factored in the successful South Africa hosting of the Soccer Football (FIFA) World Cup in 2010, played in ten regional stadiums.

Perhaps 2027 will be the lucky year for Ireland. That year will be two tournaments and twelve years down-the-road from a European nation hosting (England 2015) after RWC events in Japan (2019) and South Africa (2023).