World Rugby has announced that France, Ireland, Italy and South Africa have formally confirmed an expression of interest to host the 2023 World Cup.
The quartet confirmed their interest by the deadline on June 15, further highlighting the strength of the Rugby World Cup brand ahead of what is set to be a very special and record-breaking England 2015 event. A fifth country, USA, which had expressed interest in lodging a bid, decided not to proceed.
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "We are delighted with the strong level of Rugby World Cup 2023 hosting interest from unions and governments, which highlights the enormous appeal of Rugby World Cup as a low-risk, high-return economic, social and sporting driver. We look forward to further detailed dialogue as the process progresses.
"Although USA Rugby ultimately decided not to proceed with a formal bid, it was very encouraging that they originally had expressed an interest in hosting rugby's flagship tournament. In the end, they decided to focus instead on other upcoming projects, not least the hosting of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, but they are an ambitious and progressive union and I have no doubt they will bid to host Rugby World Cup at some point in the future."
Formal union confirmation is the latest phase in an extensive process that will culminate in the selection of the 2023 host in May 2017 and follows two days of detailed briefings and workshops in London in June, which provided an opportunity to establish relationships and understand the economic, tourism and rugby benefits that can be derived from hosting Rugby World Cup along with key information on the process.
Rugby World Cup Tournament Director Alan Gilpin said: "The candidate hosts now have a year to benefit from detailed knowledge-sharing and preparation, including digesting the detailed tender requirements and observing Rugby World Cup 2015 hosting, before the confirmation to tender deadline of June 2016.
"The announcement of the Rugby World Cup 2023 host in May 2017 will also provide the successful union with six years to prepare for the delivery of the event and maximise the benefits of observing the delivery of Japan 2019, the first Rugby World Cup to be hosted in Asia."
With England 2015 set to be a record financial and participation driver and Japan 2019 a game-changer in terms of unlocking an Asian market that is home to 60 percent of the world’s youth and has experienced a 33 percent increase in rugby participation in the last four years, World Rugby is currently undertaking a major review of the 2023 hosting model to drive further benefit to the host union, the host nation and the global game. All candidates will be obliged to adhere to a strict code of conduct.
Lapasset added: "Rugby World Cup is our flagship event and must continue to inspire, to reach out and attract new participants and audiences while delivering the financial platform for rugby to continue its record growth.
"Hosting should be a true partnership and incentivise and excite host countries and we are currently undertaking an extensive review of the hosting model to strengthen the partnership between host and owner and further the benefits for all as we enter an exciting new era for our sport."