Warm memories don't cut it any more in the World Cup when rugby's rulers put their hosting rights up for a quadrennial tender.

Eloquent speeches about good times, camaraderie and the spirit of the game can't match the commercial numbers when member nations consider votes for their economic future against the bonhomie of an oval ball festival.

That is a balance sheet which ends in the coup of France drawing votes from World Rugby delegates with a honeypot full of cash for the 2023 tournament; their highest bid gazumping an initial preference for South Africa to host the tournament.

Cash is king and assurances the coffers would be filled more in France and then re-distributed across the rugby globe, redirected the voting from "ja" to "oui".


In the lead-up to the decision, all manner of rugby nobility spoke about preserving the essence of rugby but when it came to the reality of running the sport in these professional times, money ruled.

The emotional favourite was Ireland, those with a sentimental touch fastened on to South Africa while France found favour with the bean-counters.

France hosted the tournament in 2007 when the splintered format meant games were also played in Wales and Scotland. Each venue had a raucous epi-centre but there was a disconnected feel about the event until the final.

It was much the same when France was involved as co-host in 1991 but this time they bid to be the sole host. So did South Africa and Ireland; and each made strong cases.

My emotional response was for Ireland to win approval as long as their bid was in the economic ballpark with South Africa in the race if there was a hitch. It was support for the warmth of life and the love rugby generates in Ireland allied to a feeling they were due to run the event.

The World Cup in South Africa in 1995 was a magnificent tournament and the best of the seven events which interacted with my work, but recent troubles across an array of issues dropped them into the silver medal position with France getting the bronze because of their many and recent involvements.

That's a sentimental view which is a tough position to justify in the colder world of professionalism where dosh is the boss, something World Rugby delegates expressed when they sided with Bernard Laporte and his French delegation. In an organisation which continues to work away from the limelight and public embrace, World Rugby made the rare step last month of publishing their in-depth report into hosting preferences for the 2023 tournament.

Perhaps they were justifying their expenditure by showing how much work they had done on the project or they were trying to spoil the politicking many saw as inevitable when the real vote took place. Either way, it held no weight.

You're left to ask why bother, why have the interim report unless it was binding?