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All-Ireland final must move if Croke Park hosts opening match of 2023 RWC

Who’s up for a couple of August GAA deciders?

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THERE ARE STILL seven years to go before Ireland hope to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023, however with the deciding vote less than a year away, the bid is ironing out some crucial concerns that may impact the tournament.

The sport’s marquee tournament has locked in a schedule to run from Friday 15 September to Saturday 4 November 2023.

If Ireland is to win the right to host the tournament, and then use Croke Park as the venue for the opening match, it would impact the traditional slot for the All-Ireland football final.

The third Sunday in September will fall two days after the scheduled start of the 2023 RWC, so either that year’s Championship will be required be brought forward, or the opening ceremony and kick-off could be brought to the Aviva Stadium.

“That’s something that we’ve discussed with Paraic Duffy and I think the GAA are currently working through what that actually means for them,” IRFU chief Philip Browne said after the launch of the Ireland 2023 bid yesterday.

A view of the bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The way the scheduling currently falls, the All-Ireland hurling final would not impact the World Cup plans. However, if a replay was required to settle the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup then it would have to take place at a venue other than Croke Park as IRFU COO and bid director Kevin Potts states that the stadium must be free for ‘at least a week’ before the opening fixture.

Croke Park is a necessary part of Ireland’s bid as World Rugby demands a stadium with a capacity of more than 60,000 for semi-finals and the final, a mark the Aviva Stadium falls short of.

There is no stipulation that the largest available stadium must host the opening match, but of all the previous eight World Cups, only South Africa 1995 used a different venues to open and close the tournament.

“The semi-finals are at the end of the tournament so once we have Croke Park a week before its first match, it’s fine,” adds Potts.

Dick Spring, Brian O'Driscoll, Kevin Potts and Stephen Hilditch Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“The GAA are looking at what they can do, if they want to move All Ireland finals et cetera, but it may not be necessary; depending on where the first game is.”

The issue is expected to be put before the next GAA congress. And although it’s not absolutely essential to a smooth tournament, a move to shift the hurling and football calendar would be a boost before voting on the bids from Ireland, France and South Africa takes place on 15 November 2017.

The task now for Potts, Browne and chairman Dick Spring will be to set about securing the required votes the stakeholder nations and regional associations.

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Sean Farrell

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