Why not South Africa as hosts of Rugby World Cup 2023?
Why are France or Ireland better destinations for sport’s biggest global event in 2023?
I’ve got a few mates who challenge why South Africa should host the World Cup. Their off the cuff belief is that Ireland and France are more deserving of it than South Africa.
I wanted to know why?
What came to the fore is that they were seriously disillusioned with the Springboks after the horror 2016 season.
They felt the Boks were at an all time low and that South African rugby didn’t deserve to play host to the game’s biggest tournament.
They really didn’t have an answer to support why they felt Ireland or France would be a good option and admitted it had more to do with their anger at the 2016 Springboks.
France, as always, is a romantic choice and it’s a nation that somehow always gets the benefit of the doubt. Any other country, whose main city, has been the subject of terror attacks, would never be a consideration for the hosting of a sporting World Cup.
Not so Paris.
The city of love is a very strong contender for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and possibly an even stronger candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
The French have sold both the Olympic and Rugby World Cup bids around the lure of Paris as a tourist destination, more so than a sporting event.
I spent six of the seven tournament weeks in Paris at the 2007 Rugby World Cup hosted by France and the United Kingdom. I loved it as a tourist but the rugby seemed almost incidental. I had a brilliant visit in Paris but it never felt like I was consumed with being at a Rugby World Cup.
The rugby experience of South Africa (1995) and New Zealand (2011) was so different because of the immersion of rugby into the country’s psyche for the entirety of the tournament.
Ireland’s bid is a very emotional one and plays on this type of immersion. The Irish sell is that the country will come to a standstill for the duration of the tournament.
But will it?
Ireland isn’t by nature a rugby specific country. Gaelic Football, Hurling and Soccer have always commanded a greater sporting presence.
Ireland’s stadia infra structure is secondary to France and South Africa’s world class offering. Ireland has just two world-class stadiums and they also don’t have the rugby culture of it being the number one sport in their country.
Ireland’s recent success was another reason my mates said they were deserving of hosting the Rugby World Cup.
But what success? They beat the All Blacks for the first time in their history in 2016 but also lost to the All Blacks in Dublin and lost to Scotland and Wales.
France’s rugby returns have been abysmal, so if South Africa should be punished because of the Springboks’ inconsistency then what of France and Ireland, who at the last World Cup conceded 40 points to Argentina in the quarter-final?
The reality is the hosting of the Rugby World Cup should have nothing to do with the form of the host union.
South Africa, hosting 2023, is not about the Springboks but about having the world’s best rugby players in this country for an extended period of two months.
How can anyone in rugby-mad South Africa not want that?