Ireland missed out on the hosting rights to the 2023 Rugby World Cup today, after France topped the polls ahead of South Africa in second place.
Despite the Rainbow Nation earning the official recommendation of World Rugby two weeks ago, there was talk coming into today that this advice may not be heeded, as proved to be the case.
This comes as a major disappointment to Irish Rugby, who now must go back to the drawing board. However, this week has not been a complete disaster for the union, after the national team dismantled the Springboks on Saturday, winning by a record 35 points.
They now look to kick on a finish 2017 on a high as they face Fiji and Argentina.
This team has seen steady improvement under Joe Schmidt, recording wins over the top teams since their 2015 World Cup exit at the hands of the Pumas. Victories over New Zealand, England, Australia and more ensure that they are very much realistic contenders for the 2019 showpiece event in Japan. Add a favourable draw and schedule into the equation, and the Irish could well be dark horses to claim the Webb Ellis trophy.
Upon hearing today’s news that France will host the 2023 tournament, Irish loosehead prop Cian Healy took to Twitter with a wave of optimism for the coming World Cup cycle.
Gutted Ireland won't be able to showcase our ability to host a phenomenal tournament in 2023. Hopefully we'll be going to France as title defenders at least 👌 #FutureIsGreen
— Cian Healy (@ProperChurch) November 15, 2017
To be fair, most Irish rugby fans would prefer to be entering 2023 as reigning champions rather than hosts…