Rugby’s integrity on the line as RWC 2023 goes to vote

South Africa Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux.
South Africa Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux.

At approximately 15H15 on Wednesday the integrity of the process to select the host country of Rugby World Cup 2023‚ and more broadly of rugby governance‚ will be revealed.

The rectitude of rugby’s leadership will be undermined if any name other than ‘South Africa’ emerges from an envelope in London.

If South Africa‚ the preferred candidate based on the recommendation by an independent panel of experts after an exhaustive analysis of the bids‚ does not win‚ finding bidders in future might be difficult.

The Olympics and Football World Cup have been marred by accusations of nefarious bidding processes and rugby has endured similar corridor assertions.

By making the bids transparent and the findings of the evaluation committee public‚ World Rugby has challenged its membership Council to vote based purely on technical merits.

The potential cost of putting on a World Cup is huge‚ as are the benefits.

Because of the complex nature of presenting the third biggest global sporting event‚ World Rugby has attempted to move away from shadowy deals and last minute promises.

It’s a secret ballot and SA have a history of being hurt in these situations before – when they bid for both the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cup‚ the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 Football World Cup.

France and Ireland‚ the other two countries in the race‚ have presented strong bids‚ which was acknowledged by the evaluation committee.

But they have recommended that votes go to SA‚ which scored 79% to France’s 76% and Ireland’ 73%.

If the process were completely honest‚ SA should win all 39 available votes because every Council member agreed to the process and to use the outcome of the evaluation process to guide its vote.

But that scenario is unlikely‚ which immediately casts doubt over the entire bidding process yet again.

SA‚ France and Ireland cannot vote and all that SA knows is that they are guaranteed nine votes from their SANZAAR partners.

Indications out of Britain are that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) are set to vote against SA and they might take Wales with them.

According to a weekend newspaper report the UK’s department of sport urged the RFU to side with Ireland’s bid.

The Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) has two votes‚ and should in theory vote for SA.

But its president lives in Paris and is known to be friendly with French officials.

France believes they have 14 votes according to sources in that country‚ which makes them a dangerous opponent.

If no country earns an outright majority of 20 votes in the first round of voting the bid with the least support will drop out and the process will move to a second round.

If Ireland or France drops out in the first round then those votes should go to the preferred candidate. But nothing is guaranteed.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander and chief executive Jurie Roux have been in London lobbying for delegates to do the right thing and SA deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa arrived on Tuesday to help sell the bid.

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