Leo Varadkar will meet soon with the IRFU to decide if Ireland will make a bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Varadkar’s very public declaration of support for the project is likely to give significant impetus to the Union’s ambitions. Government support would be essential to a bid given that Japan had to guarantee the 2019 World Cup to the tune of €115million and that is likely to increase by 10% for the 2023 staging. One senior source has said: ”The Minister wants to see it happen but would first need to see if it is feasible.”
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has confirmed that the project has been considered: ”Coming back from New Zealand and seeing what they were able to do there, we (the IRFU) said it would be worth looking into. If the Government don’t get involved though, then it won’t happen.”
The IRFU have until February 2013 to formalise a bid for 2023 with the 2015 global rugby event being held in England and 2019 in Japan. Though top political support would be invaluable, a source close to Minister Varadkar said that ”any initiative would have to be led by the IRFU.” Importantly, Mr. Varadkar’s relations with the IRFU are far warmer than those that existed during the rein of his predecessor, Eamon Ryan. The Minister has in the past admitted to being ”a closet Leinster fan” who also played ”very bad rugby as a child but continued to keep an interest.”
Top level sources have stated that, unlike Gay Mitchell’s famous suggestion that the Olympics could be held in Dublin, the current situation is completely different in that Ireland already has the stadia and infrastructure required to host such a huge event. The IRFU spokesperson also added that the success of the recent New Zealand World Cup ”proves small countries can hold such an event.” They noted that when it comes to grounds we ”already have the Aviva Stadium and the RDS, Croke Park has been used for rugby in the past, Ravenhill is currently being refurbished and there are a number of other historic grounds around the country including Limerick’s Thomond Park.” If the GAA got on board, with stadia like Semple Stadium Thurles and Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork due to be refurbished; Ireland wouldn’t need other Celtic nations (or England) to host some games.
A World Cup attracts hundreds of thousands of visiting fans, 2,500 international media and up to 5,000 corporate and VIP guests throughout the competition. It is believed that the 2007 Rugby World Cup brought in over 450,000 additional visitors to France and delivered a total economic impact of over €4billion.