Ireland plans ambitious bid for 2023 World Cup

Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:22am EST
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By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will consider launching a bid for the 2023 rugby World Cup this week, the country's sports minister said on Monday, hoping a politically-symbolic proposal will win it the right to host the event for the first time.

The ambitious effort would see games played on both sides of the Irish border as unlike soccer, the national team is an all-Ireland selection, and would represent another major step since a 1998 peace agreement mostly ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

Ireland has been mulling the idea for over a year, looking to replicate the successful hosting by similarly populated New Zealand in 2011, and minister Leo Varadkar said he will seek approval from cabinet colleagues on Tuesday.

"It's probably the biggest event a country like Ireland could do, we're too small for the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup and for that reason it would engender enormous national pride," Varadkar told an International Rugby Board conference.

"The second thing is that even during the very difficult times of the Troubles, rugby in Ireland was a unifying sport. For us in Ireland, it would just be a symbol of how far we've come from the bad times to the better times now."

South Africa, hosts of the hugely symbolic 1995 rugby World Cup and 2010 soccer World Cup, have also indicated that they plan to make a bid. France, hosts as recently as 2007, have also expressed an interest in the 2023 edition.


Dublin has been working with the Northern Ireland executive on the proposal and also has the backing of Ireland's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), meaning it can use stadiums like the 82,300-capacity Croke Park.   Continued...

Ireland's rugby team gather for team training at their Carton House training camp in County Kildare February 9, 2012, ahead of their next Six Nations rugby match against France in Paris. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton