Irish-Americans are the trump card
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ireland's 2023 World Cup bid is hoping the large Irish diaspora in the United States could be their trump card.
The IRFU officially launched their candidacy for the global showpiece in Dublin on Tuesday, pitting themselves against France and potential bidders South Africa, both of whom have previously hosted the tournament.
A final bid must be submitted by June, with the winning decision announced by on November 15, 2017.
While France and South Africa have been there and done it, the IRFU hope their unique ability to spread the game to the much desired North American market could swing things their way.
Awarding the 2019 World Cup to Japan shows World Rugby are open to expanding the game beyond traditional borders and the US is expected to join the race to host the 2027 tournament.
Hosting the tournament in Ireland four years earlier, with a significant number of fans based in the North America expected to tune in, or travel to the Emerald Isle, is something IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne was keen to mention in Dublin.
"It's going to be a World Cup involving the whole island of Ireland, and we have a good mix of stadia, all within easy walking distance of city centres.
"We hope by having standing terracing, there will be accessible tickets for real rugby fans and we're going to provide those fans with a unique celebration of rugby, a unique fan experience. The other thing we bring to the party, which no one else can is the 80 million people around the world - the Irish diaspora.
"One of the key issues for World Rugby is: How do you open up the American market? We possibly have the answer.
"We have 34.5 million [people] in the USA, another four million of Irish descent in Canada. There were 62,300 people at the match in Chicago. I'd say 45-50,000 were Irish supporters, even if they weren't all from Ireland.
"There were about 7,000 people [travelling] from Ireland but the rest were based in North America and the rest of the world. We can provide a platform for World Rugby to promote the game into areas of the world they haven't been able to up to now," Browne said.
Winning the bid was said to be worth an estimated €800m to the Irish economy, while bid organisers predicted the largest number of travelling fans in tournament history, with Scottish, Welsh and English fans all expected to travel in their numbers to the island.
A list of 12 venues, four rugby and eight from the native Gaelic Games Association was announced, with World Rugby expected to whittle that down to between eight and 10 after the winning bid is chosen.
To get the win, Ireland will need approximately 19 votes from the Council, and discussions have already begun in earnest - with the IRFU speaking with their counterparts from the US and Canadian Unions in Chicago last week, ahead of their timely victory over reigning World Champions New Zealand.
"Listen, there are no votes in the bag at all. The reality is that we've just launched and it's up to us to go out over the next 12 months and persuade people of the value and benefit of our bid to world rugby.
"Yes, we've started our conversations. We've started our conversations in Chicago with the Canadians and the US, we met people yesterday in London and we'll be meeting more people between now and Christmas, and after Christmas.
"So the hard work really starts now in terms of actually putting the detail on the bid and then having those conversations, trying to persuade people that our bid is of value to world rugby," he added.
The 2023 tournament will run from September 15 to November 4.