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Theresa May has backed Ireland's bid to host the Rugby World Cup

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with the British Prime Minister in London today, following Ireland’s presentation to host the RWC 2023.

Updated 3.15pm

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has backed Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup (RWC) in 2023.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll were in London today for Ireland’s official bid presentation.

Following the presentation, the Taoiseach visited the prime minister in 10 Downing Street, where he revealed that May has written to the Rugby World Cup organisation to state that the UK fully supports Ireland hosting the tournament.

Ireland faces tough competition from South Africa and France, the two competing candidates that also presented their bids this morning.

However, the Irish government is confident it will win out.

Varadkar was the only State leader to attend the presentations today, where he stated that he “wouldn’t have missed today for anything”.

“Ireland is a rugby crazy nation,” he declared.

Rugby World Cup 2023 Former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, IRFU Chief Executive Philip Brown,Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, Dick Spring Chairman, Ireland 2023 Oversight Board, Transport Minister Shane Ross and David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, during the 2023 Rugby World Cup host candidates presentations at the Royal Garden Hotel in London. Source: Nick Ansell

Preparations for this bid have been in the works for a number of years, and in the last 18 months there has been a big push behind Ireland’s bid to host the tournament – even getting Irish actor Liam Neeson to narrate a promotional video last year.

Source: Discover Ireland/YouTube

This weekend, another promotional video was released, which has already clocked up nearly 60,000 views.

Source: MerrionStreetNews/YouTube

The final decision on who will host the contest will be made on 15 November.

Varadkar, who has been working on the Ireland bid for more than four years now, said it is a “big ambition” to host the tournament, and he is “confident of success”.

He told the officials that Ireland had the infrastructure to host such a tournament, adding that the “business case adds up for the economy and the Irish taxpayer”.

The Taoiseach said such an all-island competition would “bring people together”, and highlighted that there were plans to tap into the Irish diaspora if Ireland is successful in winning the bid.

He said he was “very happy” to get to this point, stating:

I hope we can get good news in a few weeks.

In order to pitch the bid, emergency legislation had to be passed to allow the government to commit the €320 million it would cost to host the Rugby World Cup.

Originally, it was understood that no new law was needed, however, the former attorney general Máire Whelan changed her mind.

It’s understood that officials believe Ireland is in with a good chance, with Sports Minister Shane Ross stating that an all-Ireland strategy to hosting the competition does not appear to pose any “political difficulties”.

Ross also confirmed all Irish rugby matches will be free-to-air if Ireland wins the RWC 2023 bid.

Some critics argue the costs of hosting the competition will be too great. However, Ross said he expects the economy will make money.

Cancellation insurance 

The minister said they are prepared for all eventualities and have even taken out cancellation insurance which covers things like terrorist attacks and acts of God which could lead to cancellation.

The insurance policy does not cover eventualities like a big team being knocked out very early. Ross has acknowledged there are certain things that the government cannot guard against.

Rugby World Cup 2023 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Source: Nick Ansell/Press Association

“The danger of the figures not being as good as in past World Cups is always there but is very small. In comparison with the World Cup hosted in the United Kingdom, for example, we expect to get a huge number of British visitors. That obviously did not apply in the British case because they were already there. The British fans are the best travellers of the lot,” Ross told a recent Oireachtas committee.

Hotel accommodation 

In terms of whether Ireland could accommodate such an influx of people, he said:

“This remains something of an unknown because we do not know where we are going to be in 2023. We have looked at this crisis, which is a difficulty at the moment, particularly in Dublin. The tournament will take place in Ireland’s shoulder season of September and October.

“This is really good time to host it, not just for tourism and sports tourism, but also because there will not be the same critical pressure on hotel beds that there would be in mid-summer. We estimate that we will need 2.7 million bed nights for tourism and we have 12.2 million beds over this period,” he said, adding he expected capacity in Dublin to rise by 6,000 additional beds by 2020.

Brexit talks 

Following the pitch for Ireland to host the world cup, the Taoiseach met with the UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a bilateral meeting in Downing Street, London. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Top on the agenda for discussion was Brexit.

The pair last spoke to each other on Friday morning, ahead of May’s speech on Britain’s plan to leave the EU. It’s understood the prime minister was anxious to speak to Varadkar and outline her key points ahead of delivering her speech in Florence.

The Taoiseach restated his cautious welcome for elements of the speech, stating that it is too early to say whether Britain has made sufficient progress in Brexit talks.

“I have always encouraged the British government to be more specific about how they see the future relationship between Britain and Ireland,” he said, adding that May’s specific mention about there being no physical infrastructure on the border was to be welcomed.

“To me that is very important. It is a little bit more than saying that you don’t want a border of the past or a hard border. It is saying that there will be no physical infrastructure. It is a very strong statement in my view,” he said.

Varadkar said he pointed out that the best way for this to be achieve is for Britain to remain in the Customs Union and the Single Market “in some form”.

Britain Ireland Politics Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Downing Street. Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth/Press Association

The Taoiseach emphasised that Ireland will continue to negotiate as part of the EU27 remaining member States, represented by Michel Barnier and his task force.

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