To the layman, Ireland's 2023 Rugby World Cup bid seems like a slam dunk. We have top-notch stadia, a sports-mad population, world-class hospitality and travel infrastructure, and most importantly, our main rivals are all flawed.
One of the few people to publicly express anxiety about Ireland's ability to secure the 2023 Rugby World Cup was a certain Patrick J Hickey, who way back in 2014 saw stormclouds on the horizon. After Sochi, he told Malachy Clerkin of the Irish Times about his worries for the bid. He also spoke - bragged, you might say- of a rather extraordinary phonecall that he made to then Sports Minister Michael Ring, offering his services to his country.
“I had dinner with Bernard Lapasset the other night and he spoke to me about the World Cup bid. I spoke as well to the [former] president of European rugby who’s a Romanian (Octavian Morariu). They were asking me about the bid but I didn’t know an awful lot about the set-up.
“Like, I knew the Government had announced they were going to put a bid together, but I tell you, they’d want to get their act together if they’re going to get the votes. You don’t get this just by saying, ‘We’re beautiful Ireland’. It’s like a bid for an Olympic Games. The word around the table is that huge opposition is coming from Argentina and South Africa.
“So I phoned Michael Ring, because, you know, I wanted to help out. And Michael said it’s not clear yet how everything is going to work, but that they’re confident enough.
“But I don’t know if they realise how much work they have to do in places like Georgia, in Romania, Moldova, all those places. I think they think that getting the home unions will be enough.
“I don’t think the people in charge of the Irish bid have taken this into account. I’ve smelt a danger here that it’s going to be political. If they want me to help them, I’ll help them. If they don’t, so be it.”
Now Michael Ring has moved on as sports minister in the past few months, but someone in Leinster House decided to take Hickey up on his offer, because in today's Sunday Times, Justine McCarthy reveals that one Patrick J Hickey was last month appointed to the official government board overseeing the Irish RWC 2023 bid. A number of appointments to the board were announced in May, though Hickey was not on that list. Nor was there any public announcement of his promotion to the board in July.
McCarthy says his role on the board is currently being reviewed in light of events this month, while Fianna Fail are asking that he step aside from the role. With his extensive contacts in world sport, Hickey would have brought a lot to the Irish bid, though it seems like the 2023 Rugby World Cup is the least of his concerns.