Ireland's chances of hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023 could receive a major boost. With doubts surrounding Japan's ability to host the tournament that they have already, the South African Rugby Union have informed World Rugby that they are ready to step in if required.
South Africa hosted the global showpiece in 1995, but despite bids for 2011, 2015, and 2019 - they haven't had the tournament in the professional era.
Japan were due to build a new national stadium for the tournament, but the Japanese Prime Minister has ordered a review of the plans. This will mean that the stadium will cost less and be ready in time for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
This means that there isn't a stadium that is able to host to the final. World Rugby released a statement saying:
Following the Japanese government’s decision to remove the new national stadium from the inventory of Rugby World Cup 2019 host venues, World Rugby has set out a revised roadmap for the Japan Rugby 2019 organising committee to provide key assurances regarding the successful delivery of the tournament.
The new stadium was due to be the centre-piece of an exciting programme of 12 host venues, staging the opening match, the final and other key clashes and its loss has a significant impact on the overall ticketing capacity and tournament budget.
It's far from a sure thing that Japan will or will not be able to host the tournament, but were it to be moved - it would take out Ireland's biggest competitors for the 2023 tournament.
Conversely, should Japan be able to host the games - then World Rugby will probably look favourably on the SARU's co-operation and willingness to step in.
This will be something that Irish rugby fans should be watching with more interest than usual.
Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE