The IRB is yet to confirm the process for potential bidders to stake their claims to host Rugby World Cup 2023. Yet while there is a full decade to go time is far from being limited. To the contrary a decision will likely be made at the latest in 2017, six years before the tournament. Six years was the time given to England to prepare to host Rugby World Cup 2015 after it won the hosting rights in 2009. The 2011 host nation, New Zealand, also had six years after having been confirmed as the host nation in 2005. The six year gap between winning the hsoting rights and hosting the tournament was the end of a long process dating back well over two years for both bidders. As such it is fair to say that the bidders for Rugby World Cup 2023 will be given two years notice ahead of the decision which could mean that bidding would close in 2015.
So far there have been indications of interest from a number of countries. South Africa has again shown interest. Despite missing out on hosting in 2011, 2015 and 2019 the Rugby World Cup 1995 host nation is again likely to bid. Other previous hosts to have either indicated or officially stated an interest include Ireland and now France. Ireland´s opportunity to host has been gaining ground with the IRFU having recieved both government and GAA support. Permission has been given for a Rugby World Cup in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to feature seven GAA stadiums which would be used together with established rugby venues in Dublin, Limerick and Belfast. It would give Ireland 10-11 stadiums to host a Rugby World Cup but would not be breaking any new ground as both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland hosted matches at Rugby World Cup 1991 and 1999. Moreover, with England and Wales hosting in 2015 it means the sovereign state of the U.K. will have hosted matches at every second Rugby World Cup. Should Ireland host in 2023 this would continue.
Ireland, though, is far from being the only European interested. Italy and Russia have both made it known that they intend on bidding. Neither has ever hosted a Rugby World Cup and Italy, in particular, has emerged as a strong rugby market in recent years and is set to host the Heineken Cup Final before Rugby World Cup 2015. Its bid to host Rugby World Cup 2015 included the use of the Stade Velodrome in Marseille which hosted six matches in Rugby World Cup 2007. A bid for 2023 would be unlikely to include any French venues due to the FFR having stated its intention of interest in entering in the bidding process to host the tournament on its own.
FFR President, Pierre Camou made it known on Sunday that France is a strong candidate to organize Rugby World Cup 2023. Should France bid then it would not have the support of the Celtic vote who would be highly likely to back an Irish bid. This would mean thast France would host on its own. Indeed, the only downside to France´s hosting of Rugby World Cup 2007 was the use of Cardiff and Edinburgh. Both were simply not necessary as France had the stadiums to cope with hsoting on its own. Of the matches played in France 97% of all tickets were sold. Conversely Wales struggled to sell tickets for Wales v Japan and Canada v Fiji while Scotland v Romania was also poorly attended at Murrayfield.
Since 2007 the sport has gone from strength to strength in France with the Top 14 being out on its own as the best professional league in the world. Many clubs have upgraded their stadiums while the French test team has continued to play in a diverse range of stadiums such as Bordeaux, Lille, Marsellies, Montpellier, Nantes and Toulouse while all these, and many other big stadiums in France, have played host to Top 14 matches since 2007. Paris has continued to host the majority, including all Six Nations matches and will likely become to sole host when the new stadium is completed which will be a rugby stadium owned by the FFR. Events seem to say that France would be a better host than England, which intends to break the record of tickets sales, in 2015.
A return to France would come aghead of South Africa and, crucially, ahead of first time hosts. Argentina, Italy and Russia offer fresh options that all ought to be seriously considered before any previous host nation hosts on its own or as a sub-host again. Argentina offers what nobody else can and there is no denying that taking a Rugby World Cup to Latin America would be something unable to be matched by any of the above mentioned options for hosting the Rugby World Cup in the year 2023. Above all else France or Ireland would be extremely fortunate to host in 2023 given that the previous two World Cup´s before 2023 have already been confirmed for the Northern Hemisphere.