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'Good atmospheres and bums on seats would be high up my list of World Cup priorities'

Rory Best says we should be proud of the Irish bid even if it falls short.

Best speaking in Dublin yesterday.
Best speaking in Dublin yesterday.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

RORY BEST, THE Ireland captain, says it is important for the IRFU to push for plans to upgrade stadia and facilities to go ahead even if the 2023 World Cup bid falls short next week.

South Africa yesterday emerged as the clear favourites to win the right to host the tournament after the World Rugby technical review group published its findings.

The review group assessed each of the bids on five criteria with Ireland’s case to stage the World Cup in six years ranked third behind South Africa and France, representing a potentially fatal blow to the IRFU’s hopes of winning next Wednesday’s World Rugby council vote.

One of the main criteria — venue and host cities — contributed significantly to Ireland falling behind the other bids with World Rugby raising concerns over the amount of work still required at several of the stadia included in the Irish bid.

For example, Pearse Stadium, Pairc Ui Chaoimh and Fitzgerald Stadium are not yet up to Rugby World Cup Limited’s minimum standard for hosting tournament games while the redevelopment of Casement Park, it was highlighted, has yet to be given the green light.

The review group concluded that the stadia in South Africa and France were bigger and better, but Best said the atmosphere of a venue isn’t always dependent on its capacity.

“It’s very disappointing at the minute,” the Ulster hooker said at last night’s Rugby Writers of Ireland awards dinner.

“Nothing is completely over yet, and knowing the bid team they will rally now and give it their best shot to try to overturn that and come from third to get it.

“As a player all you want to do is playing front of packed houses, good atmospheres, and in those training weeks you want to be surrounded by a buzz.

“Sometimes we got it in previous World Cups, and sometimes we didn’t, and it wasn’t always the places with the biggest stadia that give you the biggest buzz.

A general view of Pairc Ui Chaoimh during the match Pairc Ui Chaoimh is one of the venues in the Irish bid. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“It’s the whole country and how it gets behind it that can generate that. And when you look at how Ireland as a country embraces sporting events, how Ireland embraces rugby, you can almost guarantee no matter who is playing and where, that there would be a packed house. And as a player, that’s what you want.

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“Having seen the bid and seen a lot of the process a little bit from the outside, it was a really, really strong bid.

“It will just be interesting to see when all’s said and done what the rationale is. Because from a player’s point of view, to be guaranteed good atmospheres, bums on seats, that would be very high up on my list of priorities for a World Cup.”

Best added that ticket sales for this month’s Test matches against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina underlines the appetite for rugby on this island.

“Selling out South Africa and Argentina, and almost selling out Fiji, that suggests that rugby’s strong in Ireland, and there’s the appetite for people to go and watch at the top level.

“If they don’t get the opportunity to watch rugby on their doorstep in a World Cup you hope there’s still that push on to keep that infrastructure, and possibly a bid further down the line for it.

“It’s really important for players, for keeping our best players in Ireland and attracting the best players to complement that.

“And one of the best ways to do that is to have some of the best facilities around.”

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