World Rugby’s General Council voted against the recommendation of South Africa as 2023 hosts and handed France the World Cup.
France hosted the World Cup in 2007 and the decision means that the World Cup will again be in the Northern Hemisphere.
South Africa a fortnight ago was deemed the ‘clear winner’ with France ranking second and Ireland third.
But the French vowed to use any means to sway the Council Members and with a secret ballot at play, they did just that in convincing the Council a World Cup in France was the best thing for World Rugby.
France won the first round of voting by 18 to South Africa’s 13 to Ireland’s eight and then beat South Africa 24-15 in the final round.
SA Rugby Union President Mark Alexander said: ‘We produced a compelling bid document that earned the unanimous recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Ltd board. That recommendation was questioned last week by rivals, but endorsed a second time by World Rugby last week.
“However, the view of the experts and World Rugby’s leadership was overturned by World Rugby Council members, who may have had other factors to take into account.
“We cannot hide our desolation but, for the sake of rugby we wish the 2023 tournament hosts every success.”
Julie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, ruled out any suggestions that his organisation might challenge the vote.
“We have said throughout that we would honour both the letter and the spirit of the process and we now consider the 2023 bidding process closed.
“However, in the feedback sessions I am sure we will be recommending to the World Rugby Council that the verdict of the evaluation committee become binding.
“World Rugby ran an exhaustive and transparent process for 15 months to identify the best host nation, only for the process to go entirely opaque for the past two weeks.”
Alexander said that after a fourth successive disappointment in the Rugby World Cup bidding process it was difficult to know where South Africa would go from here.
“It will be for the next generation of SA Rugby leaders to decide whether to compete for the 2027 tournament or beyond,” he said.
“I am sure our country will fulfil the dream of hosting the tournament once again someday; our hearts bleed that it will not be in 2023.”