World Rugby, the global governing body for rugby union, has announced a review of the process for awarding the Rugby World Cup following controversy around the selection of 2023 host France.
The announcement, made by World Rugby’s chief executive Brett Gosper, comes after France was unexpectedly awarded the hosting rights to the 2023 tournament, when the governing body’s council voted against the board’s recommendation that South Africa should stage the event following an independent evaluation report.
It was the first time the independent evaluation report had been included in the bidding process, following the creation of a new system by World Rugby that aimed to provide transparency around each bid.
France was victorious over South Africa in the secret ballot process that followed the recommendation, winning in the second round by nine votes.
Gosper said the bidding process had left World Rugby “open to what is a perceived contradiction that doesn’t look tidy”, and suggested that the use of secret ballots, as well as the two-week gap between the announcement of the evaluation report and the execution of the vote, would be reconsidered, with a view to creating an open vote.
Jurie Roux, chief executive of the South African Rugby Union, said: “In the feedback sessions I am sure we will be recommending to the World Rugby council that the verdict of the evaluation committee become binding.”
"There are parts of the process that we will probably change next," added Gosper. "I guess the hardest part of the review and the most contentious part of the review was actually providing a recommendation. To be fair on Bill [Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby] and Gus [Pichot, vice chairman of the body] when they arrived on the scene, they found that and they weren't happy with that. But because we had embarked on a system, there were certain elements countries were really keen that we were not to change one element of.
"In the end we felt that was probably the right route to take. To change course halfway through the process was going to be uncomfortable for all sorts of reasons."
Discussing the process that led to France being awarded the tournament, Gosper said that “at the end of the day, the French bid had much higher possibility for money to come back into the regions and the unions”.
"It has been by far the best system ever run but unfortunately it has been a little bit overshadowed by the contradiction or the perceived contradiction by the Rugby World Cup board - which looks at it terms of the execution of the tournament - and the council, which looks at it in terms of the interests of the unions they are representing,” he added.
"So that will be part of the review and I would be surprised if we move to a recommendation again. I know we have been criticised a few times for having a secret ballot. An open vote sounds transparent and maybe we should consider that."