Ireland Rugby World Cup 2023 bid moves a step closer
The prospect of a bid by Ireland to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup has moved a step closer with the setting up of a cross-border working group.
The working group will comprise key bodies associated with preparing a bid.
The Irish government and the Northern Ireland Executive hope the move will lay the groundwork for a potential combined pitch to stage the tournament.
Ministers from Belfast and Dublin met in Armagh on Wednesday to discuss hosting the sport's showpiece event.
Stormont sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin and tourism minister Arlene Foster held talks with counterparts in the Republic's tourism and sports departments Leo Varadkar and Michael Ring.
The agreed working group will report back to both governments in a few months and Ministers will then consider how to move forward to submit a formal application to host the competition.
"The island of Ireland has a lot to offer the global rugby family and there would be a lot of benefits to be gained by hosting such a prestigious event," said Minister Ni Chilin.
"The (Stormont) Executive is investing £110m in upgrading stadiums in Belfast which includes the redevelopment of Ravenhill (the home of Ulster Rugby).
"While we would have world class venues to host the Rugby World Cup, there is a lot of work required to get us into a position to make a successful bid."
Mr Ring said the Rugby World Cup was potentially the biggest sporting event Ireland could stage.
"An event of this scale would not only have a great benefit for rugby but would also raise the profile of what sport can do for the country," he said.
"We all witnessed the massive boost to the national mood that was provided by the London Olympics.
"The Rugby World Cup is probably the largest event we could ever host on our own on the island and I would hope it would have a similar impact here.
"Sport is a great unifier, it brings people together and large events like this can also bring about a great sense of pride."
The ambitious bid would see matches played on both sides of the Irish border, taking in both rugby union and gaelic games venues.
Ireland has been mulling over the idea for over a year, with the backing of the Irish Rugby Football Union, in the hope of replicating the successful 2011 New Zealand event.