South Africa set to host WRC in 2023 but Ireland, France fume over World Rugby report.

World Rugby's council will this week vote on the host nation for the 2023 World Cup amid threats of legal action from Ireland and France and claims of half-empty stadiums should the tournament be held in South Africa, as it probably will be.

South Africa is the recommended host after it came out on top of the World Rugby technical review board's evaluation, a 139-page assessment of the merits of the three bidding nations.

The member nations will vote in a secret ballot on Thursday (NZT), and New Zealand Rugby have already stated their three votes will go to Sanzaar partner South Africa.

But Irish Sports Minister Shane Ross has already made official his concerns about the process, Ireland's World Cup bid chairman Dick Spring has written to unions around the world expressing his shock at the approach of the report, and France federation president Bernard Laporte has claimed it contained "blatant errors".


"I don't believe in bad faith," Laporte said last week. "I rather think that it's incompetence."

The secrecy aspect of the ballot will help member nations vote more on conscience than political lines, but in all likelihood the European vote will be split between Ireland and France while the Sanzaar nations will vote for South Africa (the bidding nations aren't eligible to vote).

Should the Sanzaar nations (and Oceania region, South America Rugby and Rugby Africa, all of whom have two votes each) vote as a bloc, 15 votes will go to South Africa. A total of 19 votes out of 37 will be needed for a bid to be successful. Tier One nations - those who take part in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship - have three votes each.

Whatever happens, the process has been messier than World Rugby would have hoped; the game's governing body even released a strongly-worded statement expressing its displeasure at France's response. "While disappointment and high emotion following the announcement of a recommendation is understandable," it read, "such comments are both unfounded and inaccurate."

There are concerns from Ireland and France that the review took an extremely narrow focus on several important areas, including security.

The threat of terrorism is the major security focus in the official evaluation report, with South Africa's appalling crime record given a glib sentence: "Crime against the individual is historically the major risk factor for South Africa."

There is no mention of the 19,016 murders (more than 50 a day) recorded by the South African police over the past 12 months or the words of Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said in Parliament recently: "Yes, we have a 1.8 per cent drop in crime [but] I do not feel it, and our people do not feel it, and they are correct," Mbalula said.

In Irishman Spring's letter of complaint to World Rugby's member nations, he writes: "We are amazed at the analysis of security issues as contained in the Evaluation Report, given that it gives a similar security scoring to all three candidates. For context, The Global Peace Index, recognised as the world's most trustworthy measurement, places Ireland at 10th, France at 51st and South Africa at 123rd."

Spring has said Rugby World Cup Limited did not appear to have engaged independent, specialist security advice in assessing the bids. This echoes in part claims made by Laporte that the report was more an exercise conducted internally than externally.

There is no mention either of the fact that Durban was stripped of the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

For Ireland and France, the battle to win hearts and minds continues. Unlike the French, the Irish have never hosted the World Cup and for Ireland's ambassadors it is a balancing act.

If they don't win it this time, they don't want to spoil their chances for 2027.