Quelle surprise? France had the best World Cup bid, insists Atcher

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France had the best 2023 Rugby World Cup bid and their success should not come as a surprise, according to the man who spearheaded the nation's campaign.

Many were surprised by Wednesday's announcement that the tournament would be heading to France, when South Africa had been considered favourites.

But French bid leader Claude Atcher was confident the European country had it in the bag, with Ireland also posing stiff competition.

"We had a good product," said Atcher in quotes reported by L'Equipe. "And it was said from the beginning; the French application is good. 

"We were accused of a lot of things - 'you are arrogant, you think you are the best'. But as in the field, you come to play thinking that you will win. 

"Yes, we said we were the best and we built around that. We took the five criteria [vision and hosting concept, organisation and schedule, infrastructure, venues and host cities, and finances] of World Rugby and worked on it. 

"But that's not enough. We must show it, this product, to the federations that vote. So we went around the world. We presented our file in 18 countries. And we managed to convince. 

"After that, you have to secure the voices, because South Africa and Ireland also had a very good record. That said, at the end, I'm not totally surprised by the vote

Sports minister Laura Flessel added: "This victory comes to reward the quality of the French application, which has been able to take full advantage of the 2007 men's World Cup and the 2014 Women's World Cup on our soil.

"Their impact has allowed the development of amateur rugby, as well as the media interest in this sport in France."

France received 18 votes in the first round to South Africa's 13, with Ireland's hopes ending after they only secured eight votes.

South Africa only received 15 votes in the second round to France's 24.