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Rugby World Cup
Italy ponder fresh World Cup bid
Enrico Borra
October 22, 2012
Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) president Giancarlo Dondi poses at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy, January 12, 2012
Former FIR president Giancarlo Dondi is still Italy's representative on the IRB executive committee © Getty Images
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Italian rugby bosses are confident that they could win the right to host either the 2023 or 2027 Rugby World Cup having been edged out by England for the chance to stage the sport's next showpiece event.

Italy, who lost out on the 2015 tournament to England by just three votes, have taken heart from Japan who were controversially overlooked for the 2011 tournament in favour of New Zealand before being awarded the 2019 tournament.

"Let's put it this way," said former Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) president Giancarlo Dondi, "if someone were to ask me to bet on Italy winning the votes to host the 2023 or 2027 World Cup I definitely put my money on it."

Dondi, who still serves on the International Rugby Board's executive committee, believes the 'credit' accrued during the last tender process three years ago is just one factor likely to be in their favour should they opt to bid again.

"Firstly, Italy should capitalise on the general positive feeling surrounding Italian rugby in the IRB Board," he said. "That positivity may very well be mirrored by the increasing strength of the Azzurri moving towards the 2023 tournament. Secondly, Italy is a country with a proven rugby appeal and would be a preferred destination for fans from all over the world.

"Italy have the capacity and the tradition to welcome the thousands of match attendees, and stadia that would be the perfect size for the event," Dondi added. ""Finally, there's the weather factor: Italy offers the perfect playing conditions for such a huge event in the autumn period."

Dondi admits the country's ability to weather the current economic turmoil will be crucial to any future bid with an increase likely on the £96m hosting fee guaranteed by the Japan Rugby Football Union for the 2019 tournament.

"I think the IRB should lower that amount or even remove it," Dondi argued. "It's very difficult to get this kind of support in the current financial climate, and it may be hard for unions to get that kind of government aid."

During the 2015 and 2019 tender process the only unions that presented the requested £100 million government guarantee were Italy and South Africa, and neither one won enough votes to host either tournament.

Ireland and Russia have both expressed an interest in hosting one of the next two tournaments with the South Africa Rugby Union also expected to be another strong contender having also missed out on the 2015 tournament. According to IRB sources the next tender process is not likely to start until 2017.

Will Italy be ready for that deadline, with the difficult economic condition biting the country? "We are living in tough times and the correct timeline for a project like the World Cup is crucial for the growth of rugby globally," warned Dondi.

According to tradition, after Japan 2019 - which will be the first edition hosted in Asia - the World Cup may be heading back to Europe, in accordance with the rotation between the southern and northern hemispheres since New Zealand hosted the inaugural tournament in 1987.

"I wouldn't count on that," warned Dondi, whose 16 years in charge of Italian rugby came to an end on September 15 with the appointment of Alfredo Gavazzi as the new FIR president. "It's really not a rule. It would be bypassed if better economic and financial conditions were to be found."

That means that after Japan 2019 we may have South Africa 2023. "I guess that as we and the SARU were beaten in the last tender, we are going to see South Africa back in the mix once again in the next round," said Dondi, "and they might be the country to beat. They have a strong rugby tradition and a proven record of managing great tournaments. We all still remember the great emotions of the 1995 World Cup."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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