Sept 23 (Reuters) - Factbox on the three nations - France, South Africa and Ireland - bidding to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup:
South Africa’s previous Rugby World Cup in 1995 proved a seminal moment for the young democracy as the team lifted the trophy in a fairytale finish that even spawned a Hollywood film.
The tournament has been credited with uniting a fragile society and did much to change perceptions of the country from the outside.
It was the last World Cup to be played in rugby’s amateur era and was a logistical and commercial success.
As a legacy of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, South Africa already has the infrastructure in place to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup and would need minimal investment in this regard.
The weakness of the South African rand makes it an affordable destination, which already has an established and vibrant tourism industry.
The bid has recently received strong government backing, both politically and financially, after it had initially threatened to withdraw support over what it claimed was the slow pace of transformation in the sport.
By 2023 it will have been 28 years since one of the sports major powers last hosted the World Cup.
Perceptions of crime in South Africa could put off prospective visitors.
South Africa has just emerged from a technical recession and future prospects for growth in the economy look bleak. It was for this reason that the South African government withdrew support for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, to be staged in Durban, and it may put their financial support for the World Cup under threat, as well.
Large distances between some major centres would mean air travel is required, which would not necessarily be the case for their bid rivals.
The South African Rugby Bid Committee have confirmed the following eight venues would be used during the 2023 World Cup, with FNB Stadium in Soweto to host the final:
FNB Stadium, Johannesburg (94,736)
Ellis Park, Johannesburg (62,567)
Cape Town Stadium (55,000)
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban (54,000)
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria (51,762)
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth (48,000)
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein (46,000)
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit (40,929)
The old Lansdowne Road, since renovated and renamed the Aviva Stadium, played host to four games during the five nations-hosted 1991 World Cup – including the semi-final – and both it and Munster’s Thomond Park were used again in the 1999 tournament, principally hosted by Wales.
Ireland has made a politically symbolic bid to play games on both sides of the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.
Unlike in soccer, the national rugby team is an all-Ireland selection.
Ireland’s Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), which until 1971 banned members from playing or attending so-called “foreign games”, such as rugby, has proposed using its hurling and Gaelic football stadiums, vastly increasing the options for hosting World Cup matches.
Having set the biggest attendance in World Cup history when more than 89,000 mostly Irish fans filled Wembley Stadium to watch their team play lowly Romania in 2015, voters have been promised the sports-mad country will pack out venues, regardless of who is playing, if Ireland hosts the World Cup exclusively for the first time.
While Ireland has hosted a Ryder Cup and a Special Olympics and Northern Ireland returned to the international stage by welcoming the Giro d‘Italia in 2014, the island has never staged a sporting event on this scale before.
However, the successful 2011 tournament in the near identically populated New Zealand offers some precedent for smaller countries.
The Irish Rugby Football Union has confirmed that the following 12 stadiums will be used for the competition, with Croke Park, by far the largest stadium in the country, the proposed venue for the final:
Casement Park, Belfast (34,186) *
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast (18,168)
McHale Park, Castlebar (38,000) *
Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork (45,770) *
Celtic Park, Londonderry (17,000) *
Croke Park, Dublin (82,300) *
Aviva Stadium, Dublin (51,711)
RDS Arena, Dublin (18,677)
Pearse Stadium, Galway (34,000) *
FitzGerald Stadium, Killarney (38,200) *
Nowlan Park, Kilkenny (26,000) *
Thomond Park, Limerick (26,897)
* denotes stadiums used by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
France hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup and progressed to the semi-finals, where they lost to England, who in turn were beaten by South Africa in the final.
France staged several matches, including two quarter-finals, during the 1991 “Five Nations” tournament, and eight games in the 1999 edition, held principally in Wales.
Over the past two decades, France has played host to two major soccer tournaments - the 1998 World Cup and the 2016 European Championships - along with the 2003 World Athletics Championships.
One of France’s biggest strengths is a proven track record of hosting major sporting events, including annual tournaments like cycling’s Tour de France and the French Open tennis competition. The nation is also home to one of rugby’s biggest domestic leagues, the Top 14.
As part of its bid, the French Rugby Federation has guaranteed World Rugby a hosting fee of 150 million pounds ($202.37 million) along with additional profits, making their bid more financially enticing than those of their competitors.
As a renowned tourist destination, France has the facilities and infrastructure to accommodate a large number of visiting fans.
France will host a variety of major sporting events in the coming few years, including the 2024 Olympic Games, which could overshadow the rugby World Cup.
Although sporting events in France have run smoothly over the years, security is a concern as the nation has been hit by several terrorist attacks in recent years.
A time span of just 16 years since France last staged the event could also work against it.
The French Rugby Federation has confirmed that the following 12 venues will be used for the competition, with the final to be held at the Stade de France:
Matmut Atlantique, Bordeaux (42,000)
Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens (38,000)
Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille (50,000)
Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon (59,000)
Orange Velodrome, Marseille (67,000)
Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier (32 000)
Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes (37,500)
Allianz Riviera, Nice (35,000)
Parc des Princes, Paris (61,000)
Stade de France, Saint-Denis (80,000)
Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne (42,000)
Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse (33,000)
South Africa 5-2
$1 = 0.7412 pounds Writing by Padraic Halpin, Nick Said and Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru,; Editing by Neville Dalton