France will host the Rugby World Cup in 2023, a year before the Olympic Games in Paris, after surprisingly beating South Africa and Ireland in a vote on Wednesday.
The World Rugby Council disregarded the recommendation of an evaluation report to hand the tenth edition of its showpiece tournament to South Africa.
A secret vote by member nations instead saw France, which hosted the 2007 World Cup, beat South Africa 24-15 in a second round.
"If you look there wasn't a great deal between France and South Africa in the evaluation report," World Rugby president Bill Beaumont said. "It was very close."
It means France will host four prestigious sporting events within six years, with golf's Ryder Cup in Paris next year and soccer's Women's World Cup across France in 2019.
Congratulations to France who have been awarded Rugby World Cup 2023 following World Rugby Council's vote #RWC2023 pic.twitter.com/JJ35aDVZVX— @rugbyworldcup
The French sports ministry said the decision to award it the Rugby World Cup so close to the Olympics and Paralympics in Paris in 2024 "demonstrates the excellence of the French know-how in organizing major sporting events."
The Rugby World Cup final is set to be played at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, just outside Paris. Eight other cities that will host matches: Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse.
South Africa, which staged the Rugby World Cup in 1995, has now failed with four successive bids to land the tournament again.
Fans gathered in the capital Pretoria expecting to celebrate victory in the vote. Instead, some of the crowd, dressed in the colours of the South African flag, was in tears as they watched the announcement from England.
"Why has it gone against the recommendation when most of the unions said they would vote with the recommendation?" Joel Stransky, who kicked the dropped goal that won the 1995 final for South Africa against New Zealand, said on SuperSport television. "What is the point of having an independent auditor if you're not even going to take heed of their recommendation?"...Read more