Opinion: IRFU should continue with rope-a-dope tactics as French fire shots

The Irish union appear uninterested in a public spat with their European counterparts

BY Simon Maguire 09:47 Wednesday 1 March 2017, 9:47 1 Mar 2017

A view of a branded ball at today's announcement. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

The IRFU should continue with their rope-a-dope tactics as the French turn the screw ahead of 2023 Rugby World Cup vote.

The French have now fired two shots across the Irish bows as the race to host rugby's flagship tournament in six years time heats up.

Arriving with “#France2023” emblazoned across the front of their jerseys was an admirable attempt to highlight their bid but criticising their hosts upon their return home was unnecessary.

Surely, if we Irish aren’t good hosts, what have we left?

The simple fact is that the Federation Francais de Rugby (FFR) are upping the ante ahead of the vote to host the third biggest sporting event in the world. They are fully aware that we have no experience of a bid of such magnitude and are turning the screw to see how we react.

So far, the IRFU appear to have adopted Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope tactics used against George Foreman in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle”. Ali let the bigger, more fancied Foreman pound him to pieces until he had nothing left to throw. Ali eventually let his hands go and won the unlikeliest of victories.

The stark reality facing the IRFU and Irish fans hoping to host the event is that the French have more money, more people and have hosted all the world’s major sporting events before, bar the Ryder Cup – which they host in 2018.

Ireland 2023 flag. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

The Irish bid is based on the hugely successful 2011 tournament held in New Zealand. The Kiwi’s “stadium of four million” concept shone throughout the tournament as every town across the country adopted a second team to follow when the All Blacks weren't playing. It generated colourful interest all over the country and helped give the competition a truly global feel.

South Africa appear to be an afterthought currently but they too present a formidable challenge having hosted the football world cup in 2010, the Lions series in 2009 and the hugely symbolic and memorable 1995 Rugby World Cup.

We will need to call in any favours owed if our bid is to be successful when the vote to host the tournament takes place in November 2017.  

For the moment, the Irish have no interest in dirty tactics and they should keep it that way.   

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