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Ireland still committed to 2023 World Cup bid

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Dublin (AFP)

Irish rugby chiefs reiterated their desire to compete for the 2023 Rugby World Cup on Thursday despite a recommendation from the Rugby World Cup Board that South Africa host the tournament.

South African Rugby CEO Jurie Roux reportedly called on fellow candidates Ireland and France to "stick to the moral high ground" and allow the process to take its "normal course".

"You can't add any more information, you can't present to anybody, you can't do any more presentations... all you can do is ask for the process to take its normal course and hopefully not be part of anything untoward," he was widely quoted as saying.

Dick Spring, chairman of Ireland's bid, reacted angrily to Roux's comments.

"While it is not surprising to hear such innuendo, it is totally inappropriate," he said. "There is in place a democratic process, whereby the council members of World Rugby, through their vote, are the ultimate arbitrators of who will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"To undermine this process in any way does a disservice to the entire structure. The recent evaluation report has stated categorically that 'any of the three candidates could host a successful World Cup'," added the former deputy prime minister and Ireland international.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking in Seattle, reportedly said there was a risk that games in South Africa would be played in "half-empty stadia".

"What we want is a tournament where people see matches in full stadiums in the middle of rugby communities in our cities rather than in big soccer stadiums on the outskirts of our cities that would be half-empty. That's part of the case we'll be making to the rugby unions," he said in comments published in the Irish media.

The Rugby World Cup Board unanimously recommended to the World Rugby Council that South Africa host the tournament. They require a majority of the 39 votes on offer to achieve this.

The World Rugby Council will make the final decision in London on November 15.

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