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Rugby World Cup
Ireland handed World Cup bid boost
ESPN Staff
March 25, 2013
Croke Park bids farewell to international rugby with Ireland's Six Nations clash with Scotland, Dublin, Ireland, March 20, 2010
Croke Park staged Ireland's home internationals during the construction of the Aviva Stadium © Getty Images
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Ireland's hopes of staging the 2023 or 2027 Rugby World Cup have received a significant boost with the news that the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) would allow the use of their stadiums.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) is considering mounting a bid to stage the tournament, that will be staged in England in 2015 and in Japan four years later, and any such plans would need to include those grounds normally used exclusively for sports such as Gaelic football and hurling, such as the 82,000 capacity Croke Park that was used during the construction of the Aviva Stadium. It is understood that there are another 10 traditionally Gaelic sports venues with capacities equal to or greater than Ireland's second-largest rugby venue - Munster's 26,500 capacity Thomond Park.

The Irish Independent reports that permission was granted at the GAA annual congress at the weekend with stadiums in Dublin, Belfast, Thurles, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Castlebar set to be part of a bid that will be worth a reported €250m to the Irish economy.

"We're very thankful that the GAA has voted to make stadiums available," said IRFU spokesman Karl Richardson. "A feasibility study is being reviewed by the department, and this is a great stepping stone. The next World Cup, in England, is estimated to be worth more than €350m to the economy. We might expect lower than that, and an estimate at the moment is around €250m.

"There would have to be capital investment in relation to hospitality and media facilities, but it would not require all-seater stadiums. There aren't any soccer grounds being considered other than the Aviva, and 10 to 12 venues are needed which can provide good access for travel and a supporter base."

GAA grounds were banned from playing 'foreign' games including rugby and soccer until 1971 when the controversial Rule 27 was abolished. The GAA changed their rules in 2005 to allow rugby and football to be played at Croke Park while the old Lansdowne Road was being upgraded.

The IRFU has also received the support of the Irish government who were impressed by the way New Zealand, another smaller nation, staged a successful tournament in 2011. "The support of the GAA is a very important element in relation to any future bid by the IRFU to host the Rugby World Cup in Ireland," said sports minister Leo Varadkar. "I am very pleased that Congress has approved this motion to allow the inclusion of Croke Park and other GAA stadiums in the list of venues. This spirit of co-operation is very welcome."

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