Report: South Africa on standby to host 2019 World Cup in move that could clear Ireland's path for 2023
Ireland's hopes of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup could be in for a boost if this comes to pass
South Africa have reportedly held talks over the possibility that they might step in as venue of the 2019 tournament as current hosts Japan continue to be beset by problems.
The Japanese Rugby Union have come in for stiff criticism from World Rugby over concerns about proposed stadia, particularly in the wake of news that the country's National Stadium would not be available as hoped.
The report, from Supersport.com, cites "high-placed sources" claiming SARU boss Jurie Roux has "held secretive meetings with World Rugby to ascertain South Africa’s readiness to step in at the last minute should the Japanese not be able to meet their obligations to host the tournament".
World Rugby would be loathe to switch the location of the tournament at this stage, especially given its mandate to expand the game globally, but should South Africa indeed be forced to step in it would be a massive boost to Ireland's bid as they would be out of the running for the 2023 tournament.
The IRFU, backed by governments on both sides of the border, are one of four unions known to be bidding for 2023, alongside France, Italy and South Africa.
France held the event as recently as 2007, while Italy have never hosted and narrowly lost out when bidding for this year's tournament. South Africa have not hosted since the memorable 1995 competition, and will have a strong case having missed out with bids in 2011 and 2015.