LONDON (Reuters) - Ireland and France are hoping their late behind-the-scenes lobbying will have done enough for one of them to overhaul South Africa when the decision on who will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup is announced on Wednesday.
World Rugby’s Council will name the host nation in London on Wednesday, with South Africa the odds-on favourites after being recommended by Board’s evaluation report last month.
The Council could still opt for any of the three bids in Wednesday’s secret ballot, with 20 of the available 39 votes needed, but is expected to rubber-stamp the recommendation.
Most unions have declined to make public their intentions, though New Zealand’s CEO Steve Tew has said it would be “very hard not to vote the way of the recommendation”.
The evaluation report gave South Africa an overall score of 78.97 percent to 75.88 for France and 72.25 for Ireland on a selection of weighted criteria.
For the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, the Council voting followed the RWC Board’s recommendation that England and Japan host the tournaments.
Ireland and France, however, are not giving up and have publicly taken issue with criticisms of their bids - actions that were also a breach of the bidding protocol.
French federation president Bernard Laporte described the evaluation report as “nonsense”, full of blatant errors and a result of incompetence. Ireland said they were surprised by the findings and vowed to compete until the end to host the event.
Ireland bid chairman Dick Spring also sent a letter to Council members complaining that the scoring system rewarded France and South Africa’s prior history of hosting major events.
In response, World Rugby said the process had been supported by host candidates, the Rugby World Cup Board and Council throughout.
After making much of the fact that the evaluation process was “totally transparent” - the final decision will be made by a secret ballot.
None of the host candidates will be involved, leaving 39 votes are up for grabs.
The remaining four Six Nations unions, as well as New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, have three votes each while the six regional associations plus Japan have two votes apiece. The outstanding four votes belong to Georgia, Canada, the United States and Romania.
Additional reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond