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Varadkar open to Rugby World Cup bid

Minister Leo Varadkar says that he would support discussions on a bid to bring the 2023 Rugby World Cup to these shores.

Scenes from this year's World Cup final in Auckland.
Scenes from this year's World Cup final in Auckland.
Image: ©INPHO/Photosport/Simon Watts

IRELAND COULD ENTER the race to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup after the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport said he would be “very interested” in opening discussions on a potential bid.

Russia and the United States of America have already indicated that they would like to stage the global showpiece which takes place in England in 2015 before moving to Japan in 2019.

But this afternoon, Minister Leo Varadkar supported the suggestion that Ireland would be a viable candidate if the IRB decides to award the tournament to a European country in 2023.

“It would be great to host a major tournament like the Rugby World Cup in 2023,” Varadkar said.

“It would require discussions with the IRFU and others, and there are usually significant cost implications in these matters. The country is also struggling with the Budget at the moment.

“But it’s something I’d certainly be very interested in exploring further with the IRFU.”

In 1991, Ireland staged part of the World Cup as part of a joint bid with the Home Nations and France. Three pool games, a quarter-final and a semi-final were played in Lansdowne Road while another pool game was held in Belfast.

Any solo bid to host the World Cup in Ireland would require support from both the FAI and the GAA, particularly the latter who could be asked to come on board by making some of their larger provincial grounds available for matches.

Thirteen stadia were used to host this year’s World Cup in New Zealand, four of which – Palmerston, Invercargill, Whangarei and Nelson — had capacities of less than 20,000.

Speaking to Off the Ball on Newstalk last night, economist David McWilliams said that hosting the Rugby World Cup could provide the country with an important psychological jolt in difficult times.

“There’s no reason that we can’t put together a bid for a Rugby World Cup and that bid should be successful for a variety of reasons,” McWilliams said.

“Sometimes you’ve got to do big and bold things to change the psychology of a nation. A Rugby World Cup, clearly for a country of our size, would do that.

“For the psychology of a country, it’s very important to be seen to be moving forward. It’s very important to be seen to be doing things that you could’ve only dreamed of a couple of years ago.”

McWilliams also rejected the suggestion that the World Cup would put an excessive strain on the national economy, saying instead that it should be seen as “an investment in the national brand” with potentially lucrative returns.

Over 133,000 tourists travelled to New Zealand for this autumn’s World Cup.

“If you look at the numbers from New Zealand, they’ve actually made money on the Rugby World Cup,” McWilliams said.

“In the past, there has always been this perception that these things will be white elephants. The fact [is] that the New Zealanders have given us a balance sheet which suggests that they’ve made it pay its way.”

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Niall Kelly

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