Dublin - Ireland's
bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been "holed" but not sunk by
the report which placed them third of the three bids, Philip Browne, the
IRFU chief, told AFP in an interview.
Browne, who wrote a frank letter to World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper this
week outlining Irish concerns over the report that placed 1995 hosts
South Africa ahead of France with the Irish in third, added the team
would battle to the end until the first round of voting at around
12:00 SA time in London next Wednesday.
The winner requires 20 of the World Rugby Council 39 votes on offer.
Browne's letter, which questioned aspects of the report such as
security with all three nations rated the same, followed hot on the
heels of French federation president Bernard Laporte also expressing
serious reservations about the conclusions.
"No doubt about it, we were holed," Browne told AFP in an interview conducted in his office in Dublin.
"We don't think we were holed below the waterline and is why we are
still in the battle and that is why we will keep battling away."
Browne admits he has to choose his words carefully so he doesn't get a
rap on the knuckles from World Rugby while also serving the Irish
government who having invested both a lot of political capital and money
in the bid will want answers.
"There's a fine line between whinging and having justifiable concerns
round the accuracy of what is contained in a report that World Rugby
has placed so much store and weight," said Browne.
Browne, who has been in
his post since 1998 and been responsible for successfully guiding Irish
rugby from the amateur era to the professional world, believes though
the prize is still up for grabs.
"The answer is it (the outcome) is finely balanced amongst the three
bids," said Browne, who has been ringing round other unions sounding
"That's the fact. We owe it to ourselves, the government and people
of Ireland who have been very enthusiastic about it to fight to the end
Browne insists Irish anger is not being directed at South Africa -
he calls his South African counterpart Jurie Roux one of rugby's
"gentlemen" - but at the report itself.
"It is a circular argument that 'yes you (Ireland) can deliver stadia
facilities but we are going to mark you down because you don't have
them despite the budget being guaranteed by the government.
"It is a kind of no win situation."
Browne, who was a top class rower and competed in two world championships, said it was still difficult to comprehend.
"There's all these issues which are difficult for us to understand," he said.
"In our letter, we had a great saying by Albert Einstein and here I
paraphrase him: 'There are a lot of things that can be counted which
don't actually count and there are lots of things that count that can't
"In some respect that comes down to our vision and what we are offering."
Browne, who admitted the report had left him very surprised and
disappointed, said evidently their vision and that of World Rugby as to
how a World Cup should be hosted were worlds apart.
"A World Cup in Ireland would be a particular World Cup, something which fans round the world would have enjoyed," said Browne.
"But apparently that wasn't part of the overall vision World Rugby had for it."