An all-Ireland bid to stage the 2023 Rugby World Cup is set to be officially unveiled. Officials from the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) will today join representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive and Irish government to outline their ambition to jointly host the sport’s showpiece event.
Both administrations have been engaged in a preliminary assessment exercise over the last 10 months to weigh up the feasibility of submitting an official bid.
In February former Irish international star Hugo MacNeill was asked to chair the cross- border working group examining the issue.
It is understood an all-Ireland bid will be given the go ahead at an event in Armagh this morning.
As well as the traditional rugby stadiums such as the Aviva in Dublin, the Kingspan at Ravenhill in Belfast and Thomond Park in Limerick, a 2023 World Cup in Ireland would also hope to utilise a number of impressive Gaelic football venues, including the 82,300-capacity Croke Park in Dublin.
The Irish rugby team played their home matches at Croke Park between 2007 and 2010 while the Aviva stadium was being built on the site of the old Lansdowne Road ground.
Next year’s Rugby World Cup will be hosted by England with Japan hosting the event in 2019.
Cross-border bids to hold sporting events are not unheard of in Ireland and earlier this year cycling’s Giro d’Italia held stages on both sides of the border.
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In May, current Irish coach Joe Schmidt said an all-Ireland Rugby World Cup could replicate the success of his native New Zealand in its staging of the 2011 tournament.
“You have got the same population and the same kind of energy around sporting occasions and I think you have got the stadia,” he said.
Meanwhile, with the 2015 World Cup on the horizon, Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie has said he views England’s performance since the RBS Six Nations as unsatisfactory.
An encouraging runners-up finish in the 2014 championship was followed by a run of five consecutive defeats, three on the summer tour to New Zealand and autumn losses to the All Blacks and South Africa.
Victories over Samoa and Australia rescued a measure of respectability from the QBE series but there are only eight matches left for head coach Stuart Lancaster to build a team capable of winning next year’s World Cup on home soil.
Ritchie rejects the notion that England have stagnated this autumn and, while disappointed by the recent losses, he is convinced they will be ready for the global showpiece.
“It’s been a very hard schedule – we’ve played New Zealand four times on the bounce,” Ritchie said. “I don’t make any apologies for that because we want to be playing the best in the world and judge ourselves against that.
“We’ve played four times against New Zealand and lost four. Verdict: That’s not satisfactory and we want to do better than that.
“Absolutely this isn’t a development phase. Are we a learning team? We need to be and have to be competitive and beat those teams.
“We need to be in a position of beating every team. That’s what we have to do.
“But there is no doubt in my mind that the margin is pretty small. There’s no chasm of difference.
“It’s very marginal and now it’s about making sure that margin is made up. That’s the view of the coaching team as well.
“Next year I undoubtedly think we’ll be stronger not weaker, whether that’s because of the time the squad have to train together or the availability of players.”
England have finished as Six Nations runners-up for the last three years and Ritchie refused to be drawn on whether the 2015 Championship is a must-win tournament given its proximity to the World Cup.
“Every match is a must win. It’s a perfect start to the Six Nations, against Wales in Cardiff on a Friday night,” Ritchie said. “That’s a good game to kick off with in terms of must win. And then the third game is in Ireland.
“We will lose games from time to time, that’s inevitable. But our confidence in the coaching team is such that we believe we will get it right.”
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