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It's official: Ireland is one of three countries in the running to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup

France and South Africa are also in contention.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated at 17.00

WORLD RUGBY HAS confirmed that Ireland is one of three countries in the running to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

France and South Africa are the other two host nations in contention after all three bidders had their applications accepted by World Rugby.

Last week, Italy pulled out of the race to host the tournament for the first time after Rome’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games was shelved and the plan had been to approach both events in tandem.

South Africa staged the Rugby World Cup in 1995 while France hosted the event nine years ago.

Ireland has never hosted the event on its own but matches have been played on Irish soil during the 1991 and 1999 tournaments.

The third and final phase of the selection process begins next month, with the hosts to be announced towards the end of 2017.

“We very much welcome the formal announcement from World Rugby that Ireland’s application to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 has progressed to the final phase,” said Dick Spring, chairman of the Oversight Board for Ireland’s bid.

“We note that World Rugby will officially open the final process on 1 November and we look forward to detailing Ireland’s approach to this final phase of the process in the weeks following that announcement.

“Significant work has already been undertaken in the preparation of Ireland’s bid and this will continue apace as we enter this next phase,” continued the former Tánaiste and Ireland international.

“Given the level of support to date from all quarters including governments, North and South, sporting organisations, in particular the GAA, and indeed the general public, I remain convinced that Ireland can mount a winning bid for what is one of the great occasions on the world sporting calendar.”

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