Derry will learn this afternoon whether or not it has a chance of hosting a major international rugby nation during Rugby World Cup 2023, which could still be held in Ireland.
Last month World Rugby all but discounted Celtic Park as a potential venue for World Cup 2023 while recommending that South Africa should host the competition in six years time.
However, the dream of Derry potentially being used as a team base during the tournament hasn’t died altogether.
Although on Hallowe’en the city’s hopes were seriously dampened, when, after a comprehensive evaluation process, the Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) board unanimously recommended to the World Rugby Council that South Africa should be selected as host ahead of both France, and, Ireland, who were in last place, the recommendation was not the final say.
Since Hallowe’en the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) and the South African Rugby Union (SARU) have been busily engaged in behind-the-scenes cattle-trading with fellow unions around the world in an effort to secure enough votes to host the World cup in 2023.
Thirty-nine votes are available from national and continental unions including Australia (3), England (3), New Zealand (3), Scotland (3), Wales (3), Italy (3), Argentina (3), Japan (2), Canada (1), Georgia (1), Romania (1), USA (1), Asia Rugby (2), Oceania Rugby (2), Rugby Africa (2), Rugby Americas North (2), Rugby Europe (2) and Sudamerica Rugby (2).
While Ireland is unlikely to secure the 20 vote clear majority necessary to secure the World Cup in the first round of voting its hoped the nation will do well enough among the British, North American and European rugby fraternity to make it to a two union run-off to decide who hosts the competition.
The World Rugby Council meets today in London to consider the recommendation and vote.
However, while Derry’s Celtic Park made the long list of 12 potential Irish venues, it has now effectively been ruled out as a suitable ground for the World Cup organisers’ requirements.
Indeed, even when Ireland’s long list is whittled down to just eight, with Celtic Park, MacHale Park, Nowlan Park and the RDS excluded, the RWCL believe four of the stadia included, will still require significant works to be brought up to standard.
“The bid clearly presents eight venues that will meet RWC standards, following upgrade and overlay work,” report the RWCL assessors.
“The proposal also presents venue plans and details for the other four venues.
“Four of the eight match venues are primarily rugby venues with recent experience in hosting international rugby matches - Croke Park, Lansdowne Road, Thomond Park and Ravenhill.
“The other four venues are predominantly Gaelic football or hurling venues - Casement Park, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Pearse Stadium and Fitzgerald Stadium. Croke Park, Lansdowne Road, Thomond Park and Ravenhill are existing international sports stadiums that will require minimal upgrades to bring the venues up to RWC standard in 2023.
“Most of the work will be provided in the form of overlay which has been budgeted for.
“Páirc Uí Chaoimh (complete August 2017), Pearse Stadium and Fitzgerald Stadium require a significant level of overlay which is flagged as a risk, given the amount of work required to bring these venues up to RWC standard. Casement Park is scheduled for redevelopment by 2020 and will also require a significant level of overlay,” they add.
Although Celtic Park has been blown out of the water as a potential match venue, Derry may still get the chance to host a major rugby nation.
The RWCL state: “[Ireland’s] proposal also states that 85 team base options have already been identified that will meet or exceed the requirements for RWC 2023.
“Each base would be within easy reach of RWC match venues and training grounds.”
However, Derry has been ruled out as a team base for the latter stages of the tournamet.
“Four bases have been proposed as Semi-Final and Final base options. All have 4/5* hotels and training facilities...within 20 minutes of the match venue,” the RWCL recommend.