Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg is expected to be used if South Africa host the 2023 Rugby World Cup ©Getty Images

World Rugby's technical review group arrived in South Africa to assess the country's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup on the same day that Durban was stripped of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. 

The arrival of World Rugby's technical review group yesterday marks the first of three visits to the countries who are bidding to win the right to the host the tournament.

South Africa is competing alongside France and Ireland.

With candidates due to submit their detailed bid documents to World Rugby on June 1, a technical review group will be in South Africa until March 15.

The group will then travel to Ireland for a visit from March 21 to March 22 before completing their visits in France between March 30 and 31.

They landed in South Africa on the same day Durban was relieved of its hosting duties after Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Louise Martin failed to get assurances from the country's President Jacob Zuma that his Government would financially support the event.

The decision was taken by the CGF's ruling Executive during a meeting during the weekend before being announced yesterday after the launch of the Queen's Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace for Gold Coast 2018.

It had been estimated that staging the Games in Africa for the first time would have cost at least ZAR8 billion (£498 million/$607 million/€567 million).

The South African city had been awarded the Games by the CGF at its Assembly in Auckland in September 2015 when they were the only bidder following the withdrawal of its only rival Edmonton.

However, since then, they had not formed an Organising Committee or made any of the payments due to the CGF.

South Africa has previously hosted the 1995 edition of the tournament ©Getty Images
South Africa has previously hosted the 1995 edition of the tournament ©Getty Images

The World Rugby delegation will meet with representatives of each bid and offer advice and support to assist the bidding process.

Each visit will provide an opportunity for candidates to discuss their plans in detail, clarify any questions on the technical aspects or bid process and allow officials from the sport's global governing body to meet with government representatives.

World Rugby will also use the occasion to reiterate all expectations regarding guarantees and requirements to "ensure a fair and transparent bidding process".

In line with World Rugby’s "robust selection procedure", all bids will be reviewed in detail by a specialist technical review group and independently assessed to ensure a "fair and consistent approach to the decision-making process".

"We have three very strong and passionate candidates vying for selection as host of Rugby World Cup 2023 – all of whom are capable of hosting a fantastic tournament," said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.

“With the support of their respective governments, each candidate is working hard to develop their final submission documents ahead of the June deadline as they seek to bring to life their plans to stage tournaments that will not only be great for rugby but great for their nation.

"Rugby World Cup has demonstrated through past tournaments that it is a low investment, high-return proposition with proven benefits for host nations.

“The upcoming visits will provide us with an important opportunity to monitor progress leading into the final weeks of the bid phase and we look forward to discovering more details about the compelling concepts of France, Ireland and South Africa later this month."

South Africa last staged the tournament in 1995, paving the way for an iconic competition that culminated in President Nelson Mandela presenting the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, creating one of sport's most famous images.

The South African effort to win the 2023 edition had been in doubt after Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula banned rugby, cricket, netball and athletics from bidding for events, supposedly for "failing to offer enough opportunities to black players".

The country appears to have defied Mbalula by pressing ahead, and it remains unclear how this will coincide with World Rugby's Government support criteria.