France will host the Rugby World Cup for a second time after it shockingly beat rival bids from South Africa and Ireland for the 2023 tournament.
The result came as a surprise after South Africa, which hasn't hosted a Rugby World Cup for 22 years, was recommended as the best bid by an evaluation committee.
Yet France, who staged the 2007 tournament, received 24 votes from the World Rugby Council compared to 15 for South Africa. Ireland was eliminated in the first round after receiving just eight votes.
The Rugby World Cup will arrive in France a year ahead of the Paris Olympics in 2024, which is expected to give the competition a commercial uplift as sponsors flock to the region.
South Africa said it was "bitterly disappointed" at the decision and criticised World Rugby for holding a secret ballot after being transparent with its bid evaluations.
France, whose domestic league is the financial power in world rugby, is said to have lobbied heavily in the closing hours before the vote.
"We are bitterly disappointed at this decision and would like to apologise to the people and government of South Africa for raising their hopes,” said Mr Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby.
“We did everything in our power to bring the tournament to South Africa and we expected to have that right confirmed today."
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said he would recommend that future bid evaluations are made 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," he said.Let's