France will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup in a huge surprise after the World Rugby Council went against the recommendations of an extensive evaluation report in a secret ballot.
South Africa had been recommended by World Rugby's Board but the Council members went for France, which also held the tournament in 2007.
Ireland were eliminated after the first round when they secured eight of the 39 available votes to the 13 of South Africa and 18 of France. In the second round,
France secured 24 votes to South Africa's 15.
The three bidding countries did not take part in the ballot. The remaining Six Nations and SANZAAR countries had three votes each with the rest made up from the six regional associations and smaller rugby countries. A minimum of 20 votes were needed.
South Africa, which staged the tournament in 1995, winning it in their first appearance after missing the first two World Cups because of the apartheid sporting ban, had been favourites after coming out clearly on top of the evaluation report.
South Africa received an overall score of 78.97 per cent to 75.88 for France and 72.25 for Ireland on a selection of weighted criteria but Council members were free to ignore the report if they wished.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont denied being humiliated after the council did just that.
"We made a recommendation which wasn't accepted by the Council," he said. "It's the first time we've had this process and we will learn as we move forward.
"Because the vote went to France after we had recommended South Africa doesn't mean it's humiliation (for World Rugby)."
French officials had publicly complained about many aspects of the evaluation report, accusing World Rugby of incompetence.
Philip Brown, CEO of the Irish Union, struggled to hide his frustration.
"World Rugby needs to decide what sort of tournament it wants," he said. "Money is imperative but it shouldn't be everything - we could run a world-class tournament and produce the necessary revenues."
Japan will host the next World Cup, in 2019.
RUGBY WORLD CUP HOST NATIONS:
* 1987 New Zealand, Winners: New Zealand
* 1991 England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France, Winners: Australia
* 1995 South Africa, Winners: South Africa
* 1999 Wales, Winners: Australia
* 2003 Australia, Winners: England
* 2007 France, Winners: South Africa
* 2011 New Zealand, Winners: New Zealand
* 2015 England, Winners: New Zealand
* 2019 Japan
* 2023 France