Ireland RWC bid gets backing
London - Ministers from both sides of the border have signalled their backing for an all-Ireland bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
A meeting to discuss the bid involving the Belfast and Dublin governments took place in Armagh, in the British controlled province of Northern Ireland, on Wednesday.
Northern Ireland executive sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin and tourism minister Arlene Foster held talks with their Republic of Ireland counterparts, Leo Varadkar and Michael Ring.
The quartet formed a working group which will report to both governments in a few months, with ministers then deciding whether to back a bid.
"The island of Ireland has a lot to offer the global rugby family and there would be a lot of benefits to be gained by hosting such a prestigious event," said Ni Chuilin.
"The executive is investing 110 million in upgrading stadia in Belfast, which includes the redevelopment of Ravenhill (the home of provincial side Ulster).
"While we would have world class venues to host the Rugby World Cup, there is a lot of work required to get us into a position to make a successful bid."
An optimistic Varadkar added: "Minister Ring and I were delighted to meet with ministers Foster and Ni Chuilin to discuss the possibility of making a formal bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
"It's still very early days, but the four of us believe that Ireland has what it takes to host a cracking World Cup."
Although the island of Ireland was partitioned nearly a century ago, the national rugby union team has remained united, unlike football where there are sides representing both Northern Ireland and the independent southern Republic.
While events such as an Olympic Games or a football World Cup are probably beyond the scope of even an all-Ireland bid, there is a belief the island already has the stadium and associated infrastructure to manage the lesser demands of a Rugby World Cup
"An event of this scale will not only have a great benefit for rugby but will also raise the profile of what sport can do for the country," said Ring.
Ireland had a hand in hosting both the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups.
But staging an entire tournament would be something else, with Ring saying it could do for the island what last year's Olympic Games in London did for Britain.
"We all witnessed the massive boost to the national mood that was provided by the London Olympics," Ring added.
"The Rugby World Cup is probably the largest event we could ever host on our own on the island and I would hope it would have a similar impact here.
"Sport is a great unifier, it brings people together and large events like this can also bring about a great sense of pride."
The next World Cup is in England next year, although a handful of matches will be played at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.