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The Rugby World Cup will be hosted by France for a second time after it unexpectedly beat rival bids from Ireland and South Africa for the 2023 tournament.
The result came as a surprise after South Africa, which has not hosted a Rugby World Cup for 22 years, was recommended by an evaluation committee as the best bid.
However, France, who hosted the tournament in 2007, garnered 24 votes from the World Rugby Council compared to the 15 votes for South Africa. On the other hand, Ireland was eliminated during the first round after receiving only eight votes.
The Rugby World Cup will be held in France a year before the Paris Olympics in 2024, which is anticipated to give the competition a commercial uplift as various sponsors flock to the region.
South Africa said that it was “bitterly disappointed” at the decision and it criticised World Rugby for holding a secret ballot after being transparent with the organisation’s bid evaluations.
France, whose domestic league is world rugby’s financial power, is noted to have heavily lobbied during the closing hours prior to the vote.
SA Rugby’s president, Mark Alexander, said: “We are bitterly disappointed at this decision and would like to apologise to the people and government of South Africa for raising their hopes.”
“We did everything in our power to bring the tournament to South Africa, and we expected to have that right confirmed today.”
Jurie Roux, the SA Rugby chief executive, said that he would recommend that future bid evaluations are made binding.
“World Rugby ran an exhaustive and transparent process for 15 months to identify the best host nation, only for the process to go entirely opaque for the past two weeks,” said Roux.