Who Should Host The 2023 Rugby World Cup? - Green and Gold Rugby

Who Should Host The 2023 Rugby World Cup?

Who Should Host The 2023 Rugby World Cup?

Last week, World Rugby put out a press release concerning bidders for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. These bidders – France, Ireland, Italy and South Africa – are now confirmed.

The Rugby World Cup, if it is to take place in 2023 (you never know, maybe the Mayans were off by 10 years), would make it 200 years since William Webb-Ellis “invented” rugby. It would also be the 10th World Cup, and hopefully it won’t begin with New Zealand looking to win their fourth one in a row.

If you’ve listened to the podcast, you might’ve heard Hugh Cavill waffle on about the USA hosting the World Cup. Well, they haven’t chucked in a bid. There seems to be a feeling that the World Cup will return to Europe in 2023, so the USA and Argentina – who were also interested in hosting in 2023 – must think they’re better off investing their funds towards a tilt at the 2027 edition.

What’s The Deal, Kurtley Beale?

The nations have submitted to the global governing body so-called “bid questionnaires” that address, among other things, what stadiums they plan on using, what the finances of the event are looking like (and how much profit it will make), how well they will run the thing, and whether fans will have a fun time.

Whoever wins the rights to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup – no decision will be made until November 2017 – will be following in the footsteps of Japan’s no doubt successful and really well done 2019 event. By the time 2023 comes around, rugby sevens will also have had its second run at the Olympics (Tokyo is also doing the 2020 edition of the Olympics).

Therefore, it’ll be high time to see if World Rugby’s expansion plans have started to bear fruit. World Rugby have also started talking about expanding the tournament to 24 teams (up from 2015’s 20),

Let’s go through the nations and see what they offer:


The French are a dependable choice. They’re a big country, with a pedigree for hosting events. Just this year, they hosted the European Championship in soccer, which is an event similar in size to the Rugby World Cup (a 24-team tournament held every four years).

Given the popularity of the round-ball game there, there’s also a healthy list of stadiums all over the country to pick and choose from – in 2007, cities in the north, west and southwest and southeast of France all held games.

One potential benefit of a French bid would be the opportunity to put games in Barcelona – the Camp Nou, capacity of around 100,000, hosted the Top 14 final this year – as well as spreading the good word to western Germany. Heidelberg, a hotspot of rugby in Germany, is down the road from Strasbourg, and an hour or two further on from Heidelberg is Stuttgart, which has a 60,000 capacity rectangular stadium.

The only downside to the French bid really is lack of novelty – if they were to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup it’d only be 16 years since they last did, and 8 since it was over in England.

South Africa


All the major rugby nations have hosted the Rugby World Cup twice – except South Africa. If the Rainbow Nation was to win the rights to the 2023 World Cup it’d be 28 years, arguably too long for a country of their stature, since Matt Damon led the Springboks to World Cup victory on home soil,

The South African bid lines up in a lot of ways: a vibrant rugby culture, big stadiums, and a strong tourism scene (Cape Town, seeing/shooting lions & other endangered safari animals), as well as a brilliantly-named populace.

Will national politics undo South Africa’s bid?

However, the SARU’s bid runs into a bit of trouble on two fronts. Their own government, it was reported earlier this year, had disallowed them from bidding after they had failed to meet quota requirements. That ban seems to have been lifted, but the uncertainty doesn’t really do the South African bid any good considering there’s 7 years until the theoretical kickoff.

The second part of the bid’s troubles is South Africa itself. As proper journalist Greg Myre explains: “government corruption is an endemic problem. Violent crime has not been tamed. The HIV/AIDS rates are among the highest in the world. Squatter communities just keep expanding, and millions of poor blacks have seen little or no improvement in their lives [since Nelson Mandela became president].”

While this article is a cutesy little piece about Rugby World Cup bids and not a thorough examination of South African society, would foreigners be as excited to travel to a country requiring a “high degree of caution” (DFAT) than one of the three Euro nations? It’s an important question that World Rugby will no doubt consider as they leaf through the bids for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.


Ireland has helped host a few games in previous World Cups – 1991 and 1999 – but has never hosted one by it’s own. It would no doubt be exciting for the Irish to host it – and for the British and French fans who live only a short plane journey away – but is it really an exciting prospect for anyone else?

There doesn’t really seem much to do in Ireland – kiss a stone upside down, visit the Giant’s Steps, remark how rainy and miserable it is – even if the Irish people themselves seem quite fun and friendly.

There isn’t a questionwhether a small, rather irrelevant nation can host a World Cup – New Zealand already did it in 2011 – but Ireland doesn’t really possess any sort of pizzazz that makes it stand out.

The only thing, really, that is really going for this bid is that it’d do a lot to mend all those nasty divisions in Irish politics. The IRFU, an island-wide body, are proposing that the final be played at the home of Gaelic football, Croke Park (80,000 capacity) which was until recently closed to foreign sports (like rugby and soccer), and scene of the Bloody Sunday massacre. If the World Cup final was played there, it’d be a nice touch and good example of the power of sport.



Of all the bidding countries, Italy is the only one that could really be seen as pushing the boundaries of rugby.

Rugby union isn’t terribly popular in Italy, and their Six Nations results show that. In the 17 competitions since they joined the other Five Nations, they’ve come last in 11 of them. If Italy won the bid, there’d no doubt be a boost in popularity and an investment in the game that they’d (as would the Six Nations and European Rugby) sorely need.

Sergio Parisse, Italy captain and arguably their best player. Born and raised in Argentina.

Sergio Parisse, Italy captain and arguably their best player. Born and raised in Argentina.

Like France, being a mad soccer nation it has plenty of rectangular stadiums that can be well-stocked to the brim and are raring to go.  The Italian Rugby Federation is proposing stadia from top to toe, with Milan’s Giuseppe Meazza (seating 81,000) to Naples’ San Paolo Stadium (61,000) being thrown in the bid’s mix.

Also like France, a 2023 Rugby World Cup in Italy could also easily include games in nearby countries, like Spain (just across the Mediterranean Sea). If France is upset they lost out to Italy, a few games could be chucked at some of the huge stadiums in the rugby-mad south of France too.

Italy, it goes without saying, would also be a bonza destination for tourists, who could go look at and eat a range of delightful things, and maybe even come home with an stronger appreciation for using expressive hand gestures while talking. Just in one day, you could traipse around Tuscany, check out Michelangelo’s David, and then go watch a game of rugby at this stadium in Florence:


Artemio Franchi Stadium

With a population and infrastructure and all that jazz on par with France, the only drawbacks the Italian bid could face would be lack of confidence in their rugby governing ability. Everything else, though, really seems to line up.

What Do You Reckon, Michael Cheika(n)?

To be honest, all these options would be great. It’s also a welcome sign that these countries deserve to host the event, a far sight from the soccer version which will see Russia (where bananas are frequently thrown at black players) and Qatar (the less said the better) host their next two world cups.

A world cup in Ireland and France would no doubt be well run, but as was said on the podcast: been there, done that. There’s also a chance that some of the enthusiasm for the World Cup and World Rugby’s positive and proactive approach to expanding the game would be lost if it went to northwest Europe again. If it did, it’d be the 5th World Cup in that region of the world.

South Africa, too, would be nice, but their quota kerfuffle is a bullet in their own foot, and the state of the country itself might be a turn off to commercial interests and fans willing to travel.

I’d put my money on Italy. It looks like it’d go off, and also do the rugby world and World Rugby good by promoting the game in a new country.

Left out anything out? Are the opinions whack? Let us know in the comments below

  • Saus

    Forget Aids, forget corruption, forget poverty – you failed to mention the big negative of South Africa’s bid…..the vuvuzela ;-)

    • Unanimous

      That’s a soccer thing.

      • McWarren

        so is Aids, corruption and definitely poverty. Surely?

  • Bobas

    In all honesty I hope France gets it. A beautiful country that’s well and truly due for some good news.

    • Dud Roodt

      Agreed. I was there for the last one and it was amazing. Such a good country to drive around supporting rugby in

  • The King

    I’d love Italy. Lots of passionate local sports fans, lots of stadiums, lots of culture and whose Rugby could use a boost.

    Otherwise I’d prefer the USA. Lots of passionate local sports fans, lots of stadiums/infrastructure and Rugby could use a boost. Plus the time zones work out pretty well for us here. Afternoon games kick off at 3:30am AEST and prime time doesn’t finish until 12:00pm AEST on America’s west coast.

  • wilful

    France and Italy are the two countries that I would have a chance of convincing the missus to go to.

    • muffy

      So does that make them a good or bad option? ;)

  • theduke

    Would love to see it in Italy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen two wallabies games in Italy over the past 10 years. Both times the Italians were tremendous hosts and genuine rugby aficionados.

    The highlight was not the QC match winning try on debut, but the lineout throwing across the horseshoe bar in Padova.


  • McWarren

    I’d be happy with Ireland or Italy. I like the idea of playing a game in Spain and Germany.
    I’ll pull you up on one point, there is plenty to do, see, eat and drink in Ireland for 5 or 6 weeks. You’d need to convalesce on Med coast for a while afterwards. My concern with Ireland is their ability to fit everyone in. I’m not sure they have the hotel space and a lack of stadia outside of Dublin, even Belfast’s stadium is relatively small.
    What about a joint bid from Spain and Portugal. You could also then take a game or two over the hills to Toulouse. Honestly, that’s just my dream holiday.

    • Gavin
      • McWarren

        yeah I know, it looks good on paper. I lived there for 8 years not so long ago and have been to many of the stadiums mentioned on that list to watch Hurling and Gaelic football. To call some of them stadiums is a stretch. We have to realise as well, that although the GAA may allow access to Croke Park in Dublin it doesn’t guarantee access to all GAA stadiums, its still a political powder keg. Including Croka, they have Aviva (old Landsdowne), Thomond Park (pronounced Tomond in case they get it and we all need to go looking for it), and maybe Ravenhill in Belfast will be tarted up for the occasion. That list is a bit out of date judging by the seating capacity numbers but still there would need to be huge investment in bringing a lot of those stadiums up to date. Don’t get me wrong I’d love it to go to Ireland but if it came down to two, say Ireland and Italy, I reckon Italy’s would get it for there stadiums.

        • Gavin

          Some redevelopment would need to occur but that would happen.

          County Cork’s GAA Stadium is going under a complete revamp, a lot of the stadia there in the list are of a high quality (not all of course). Probably much better stadia than NZ had to offer I would imagine?

          All in all seems comfortable enough for Ireland.

          And all of the nominated countries to be fair.

        • McWarren

          Yeah no doubt Ireland could do it. But if the decision was made right now based on current stadiums available, I feel Ireland would not get it. I’m not that confident that the Irish government would be willing or able to indulge the IRFU with stadium upgrades, keeping in mind the IMF has only just left. As an old lefty I’d love to see it as I think it would be a great stimulus for the Irish economy.
          The other great unknown right now, and I might be wrong, is if the GAA will allow access to their stadiums. With Croke Park their hand was forced considerably by the government who had helped fund the redevelopment, but I’m not sure about the other GAA grounds, such as Cork’s. I’d love to see games played in places like Athlone and Thurles and Wexford. Such great little cities that would just buzz for the next 7 to 8 years with anticipation.
          I’ve still got a house there if you’re interested in renting from me for the duration of the tournament, at G&GR mates rates of course.

        • SuckerForRed

          Maybe that is what they can spend Apple’s tax Euros on…..

        • Sin_a_bhfuil

          Both Governments on the island of Ireland have already agreed to back the tournament and have provided the financial guarantees required. GAA is fully on board (and involved in the bidding process), stadia have been selected. Along with Croke Park and Aviva, a new 50K stadium is being built at the moment in Cork by the GAA and a new stadium is also planned for Belfast (approx. 35K) (its being held up by planning at the moment). Upgrades required for other stadia have been budgeted at 68m. The chairman of the bidding committee is a former Foreign Minister (and international rugby player), so pretty much every angle is being covered. He has said a year or so ago that ireland had nailed down 40% of the vote already.

          France will also have a very strong bid – though I can’t see Bill Beaumont going out of his way to support anything Bernard Lapassat would benefit from. South Africa hasn’t got the support of its Government (which is a requirement) and Italy might have difficulty securing grounds with La Liga ongoing, not to mention the likelihood of poor local support. 2023 might be too soon for them.

        • McWarren

          That great news, I’ll book my flights today.

  • Gavin

    Obviously should be Ireland or Italy. I’d be inclined to say that maybe Ireland deserves it, and as it is the biggest tournament of any sport that they could host the whole country would get behind it

  • Duvstar

    Woah, very harsh on Ireland! You can’t get bored in the country, beautiful place. And Dublin is absolutely buzzing. Plus the people would absolutely make it and their pub culture would fit in perfectly for rugby fans. I’d go for there or Italy.
    Just thinking, if it goes to the USA four years after that, and then supposedly back to Europe after that, could we be looking at the next Aus world cup in 2031?!

    • Gavin

      Yeah, seemed like utter nonsense.

      Ireland is a hugely popular tourist destination, a country steeped in history, culture and scenery. Really odd. If judging by that criteria, it’s a solid choice. On rugby terms it’s a great choice too.

      Italy would be a great place to have the tournament (if the people got behind it). France have had it very recently. SA horrible choice.
      USA would be interesting too,

  • boris

    Agree with most on here, would prefer Italy or France purely for the tourism factor and more to see and do.

    2019 – Japan
    2023 – Italy
    2027 – USA
    2031 – Australia

    That is what I would like to see but probably won’t happen like that. Whoever misses out between SA, France, Italy and Ireland you would think would get another shot so Australia will be at least 2035 maybe 2039. Sh1t I will be old by then that is depressing.

  • muffy

    I look at it this way, where would I prefer to go?

    SA – Safety and crime – would like to keep my belongings, been there, no rush to return

    France – full of the French – enough said – been there, no rush to return

    Italy – interesting, would be good to visit, never been, coffee, gelato, Italian women… ahem … Sight seeing and Passion (for the game) possible

    Ireland – Guiness, pub songs, humour… enough said, they get my vote

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate I hear you on SA. Just finished a holiday and while I would go back, there were plenty of times where I didn’t feel that safe. Italy would be a lot of fun but bloody chaotic. I’d go for Ireland as well

  • country kid

    So if Italy could get 2023 and Argentina host RWC 2027, then three consecutive RWCs in non English speaking countries. Pretty good message to send about the ever widening spread of rugby :)

  • DK

    Italy would be great. The wallabies have never lost a Rugby world cup game in Ireland. So that’s my vote right there.

  • Tim

    Why didn’t Australia bid?

    • Giel

      Because they choke at home … (and most times away I guess)

  • Nicholas

    Purely on growth, I’d like it thrown to the Italians. Plus as the articles there would be plenty of fun to be had between games.

  • Kevino

    The way Irish fans have traveled and supported both club and country since rugby went professional, they deserve to host the World Cup. There is no doubt they will get behind the tournament, sure they do no even when it’s on the other side of the world. Would be the best month to six weeks of your life if you made it over their for it.

    • McWarren

      nothing like being in Ireland during a successful Ireland tilt at a major sporting event.
      I used to work just off Grafton st in a late night restaurant. I never ceased being amazed at the total lack of aggression on the streets after a major game of Rugby or GAA. The place would be packed to the rafters for six weeks of fun and frivolity, not too mention some rugby.
      Regardless of my doubts about it getting the hosting rights, I’m getting way too excited.

  • Tomthusiasm

    South Africa and France, been there done that. Ireland have a strong case as they’ve not yet hosted (properly) but Italy gets my vote as it’s easy enough to get around, the food is great, the weather should be good around that time and the people would get behind the tournament.

  • Dud Roodt

    Has the ship sailed on North Korea as an option?

    • Caeliv Donnelly

      Yes to hosting, but they are 1/10 with a local bookmaker in Pongyang to win the tournament outright.

  • SuckerForRed

    I was in France for 2007 and although I had a great time I reckon they have had their chance.
    My order of preference:
    Ireland (I might need a new liver by the end of it though)
    South Africa (But nervous like a lot of people)
    France (Just cause it will be to soon)

  • Patrick

    Ireland is a brilliant country to visit and indeed hosts ever more tourists each year.

  • Ro Molloy

    Come to Ireland lads. A Rugby World Cup here would be bloody amazing. We have the stadia, spread all around the country. We have the hotels. We have the restaurants. We have the tourism expertise. We have the supporters. We have the passion, energy, will and determination to make it a success. It would be feckin brilliant! Any rugby fan is always welcome here, just ask anyone who has been before. Ooh and we have quite a lively pub scene too.


Hopes to play David Pocock in the inevitable biopic. Lifelong fan of whoever Jarrad Hayne is currently playing for.

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