SA Rugby president Mark Alexander has taken aim at World Rugby in the wake of France’s unexpected victory in the 2023 World Cup bid race. JON CARDINELLI in London reports.
On 31 October, World Rugby announced that South Africa was its preferred candidate to host the 2023 World Cup. The decision was reached after an independent evaluation that took into account various financial and technical aspects.
Two weeks later, and the South African bid team is wondering how France, who came second in the aforementioned process, have secured the right to host the tournament after a World Rugby council vote.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, as well as CEO Brett Gosper faced the media in London in the wake of the decision. Many at the conference questioned the point of the evaluation process when the winner is ultimately determined by a blind vote.
Both Beaumont and Gosper refused to concede that the decision to hand France the 2023 World Cup, and not the recommended candidate South Africa, had cast World Rugby in a humiliating light. Beaumont was the picture of denial as he brushed off question after question on what is an obvious flaw in the process.
Alexander and SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux expressed their disappointment in different ways. The SA Rugby president took off when he was asked about the events of the past two weeks. It’s believed that France and Ireland lobbied for votes during this period, with the former swaying enough of the individual unions to win a majority vote.
‘The last two weeks were opaque,’ said Alexander. ‘Several rules were broken in that process, which we are upset about.
‘This is the first time World Rugby has made a recommendation and it’s being voted against. We will need World Rugby to modify that process to make sure that it works better for rugby.
‘The only thing we’ve got left to do is to apologise to South Africans. We will congratulate France, but the process has to be refined.’
Alexander appeared reluctant to clarify exactly which rules were broken. His response, however, suggested that he felt the competing candidates did not play fair.
‘There was a protocol around the way we engaged,’ he said. ‘A code of conduct. There were certain times over the past two weeks where [they] never stuck to those rules. We’ve never responded to any of the allegations [from France or Ireland] thus far.
‘I don’t want to go into the details about what the rules are. They are on the World Rugby website. One of the things is the way we communicate with each other.
‘At no point in time did South Africa attack any of the other bidders. It’s disappointing that we run a race with rules and then we all don’t stick to those rules.’
Roux stated that South Africa would not be counting the votes to find out which unions voted against them. The SA Rugby CEO added that South Africa may consider bidding for the 2027 World Cup.
Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP Photo