By Brendan Cole

The Irish Rugby Football Union is currently considering the viability of a bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The Sunday Independent reported yesterday that the union is researching the possibility of hosting the tournament in 2023, and that Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, has taken an interest in the project.

Government support would be essential to any bid, according to the union.

IRFU chief executive Phillip Browne told the paper: "It's something that we've looked at in the past and coming back from New Zealand and seeing what they were able to do there, we said let's have a look at it again. So that's all we're doing: having a think about it. It's a question ultimately of whether the Government wants to get involved in it or not. If they don't want to get involved in it then it doesn't happen."

New Zealand hosted the most recent Rugby World Cup with significant backing from the New Zealand government.

Rugby World Cup matches were hosted in Ireland during the 1991 and 1999 tournaments.

England will host the next World Cup in 2015 with Japan set to host four years later in 2019.

Some matches in 2019 will be played in Hong Kong and Singapore. Italy and South Africa were failed bidders for 2019.

A successful Irish bid for 2023 would involve a swift return to Europe after the 2015 tournament.

Other countries believed to be interested in 2023 include the USA and Russia, both seen as huge potential growth markets for the game.

GAA Director General Paraic Duffy has previously said he would ‘welcome’ a successful bid for the tournament and that he is open to having a debate on allowing the use of the association’s grounds during a tournament.

Opening up GAA grounds for matches would require a change to the organisation’s rules.