By Nick Butler

Leading Irish rugby players and officials gather at the Royal School Armagh for the announcement of the bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup ©www.Inpho.ieAn All-Ireland bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been given the green light this morning by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

High-level political leaders were present at a special unveiling ceremony at The Royal School in Armagh, including Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson. 

"I am delighted to formally announce the Government's support, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Executive, to formally back the IRFU's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup," said Kenny, whose Government have been considering the bid over the last 12 months.

"Ireland will put together a winning bid that will be impossible to resist.

"We have the fans, the stadiums, and the accessibility to make it a World Cup to remember. Irish people love our sport.

"We are passionate about sport and we celebrate it."

Enda Kenny (second right) and Peter Robinson (second left) each spoke during the Ireland 2023 unveiling ceremony this morning ©Irish RugbyEnda Kenny (second right) and Peter Robinson (second left) each spoke during the Ireland 2023 unveiling ceremony this morning ©Irish Rugby

As well as traditional rugby stadiums such as Dublin's Aviva Stadium, where the Irish national team currently play, and the Kingspan at Ravenhill in Belfast, a number of Gaelic football venues would also be used, including the 82,300 capacity Croke Park in Dublin.

"I fully support this bid by the IRFU to bring an elite international sporting event to the home of one of the powerhouses of world rugby," Robinson added.

"It would be a tremendous achievement to see the IRFU host the Rugby World Cup 2023.

"This bid shows the ambition of the Northern Ireland Executive and our determination to bring world class international sporting events to Northern Ireland.

"Northern Ireland has demonstrated that whatever the event, whatever the occasion, we deliver.

"Regardless of whether it is cycling, golf, the World Police and Fire Games and now rugby, I have no doubt that this will be a resounding success both on and off the field."

The bid holds huge political significance due to the historic tension between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and its southern counterpart, with rugby union one of the few sports in which the two compete under a single umbrella.

It would also mark the continued emergence of Ireland as a location for major sporting events, following this year's Giro d'Italia cycling race, which included stages in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Although two previous Rugby World Cups, in 1991 and 1999, included matches in Ireland, the tournaments were predominantly held elsewhere, and no World Cup Final has ever taken place on Irish soil.

An All-Irish Rugby World Cup would be a move of great political as well as sporting significance ©Irish RugbyAn All-Irish Rugby World Cup would be a move of great political, as well as sporting significance ©Irish Rugby

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne believes Ireland, and its people, would make "perfect hosts" for the 2023 tournament, which will follow next year's event in England and the 2019 edition in Japan.

"Stretching back to the Union's formation in 1879, and right throughout the modern era, Irish rugby has supplied a series of inspirational players and administrators to the international game," he added.

"We believe it is opportune for us now to put forward Ireland's undoubted credentials to host world rugby's showpiece."

Although no opposition has been confirmed, there is likely to be a strong international challenge, with South Africa, Argentina, Italy and the United States other nations reportedly considering bids.

Of these, South Africa is considered an early favourite, although Durban's bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games and a possible South African bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics could take priority.

No date has been confirmed yet for when World Rugby will announce the host country, with it remaining possible that the 2023 and 2027 hosts will be announced at the same time.

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