South Africa were named as the preferred choice by World Rugby last week, but France has stolen a march in the voting process.
South Africa was expected to be awarded the tournament for a second time after being named as the preferred host nation by World Rugby's independent review, but France instead won the vote of member nations.
A simple majority from the 39 votes was required and France claimed 18 votes to South Africa's 13 in the first round of voting. Ireland had eight votes and were eliminated.
The second round saw France claim 24 votes to South Africa's 15 to be named hosts for a second time, after 2007.
Last week it emerged that IRFU chief executive Philip Browne had strongly questioned the scores given to South Africa in the areas of 'Stadia' 'Security' 'Major event hosting experience' and 'Financial, commercial and commitments'.
French Rugby Federation President Bernard Laporte had previously accused World Rugby of "negligence" and "amateurism" and being dishonest about the independence of the consultancy agencies employed as part of the report, which ranked France second and Ireland third.
Irish players past and present gave their thoughts on the outcome.
Garry Ringrose said he was "hugely disappointed", but paid tribute to the bid team.
"To have come this far in the bidding process is a huge achievement for a country of our size. Our bid team must take immense credit for all their hard work throughout the process."
Stephen Ferris added that it was a missed opportunity for the country.
"I believe that a tournament in Ireland would have been like no other. I was hugely excited by the prospect and at the thought of all of those Irish people throughout the world coming home," he said.
"Sadly, it was not to be but I’m confident that we will take learnings from this bid and propose an even better event sometime into the future."
I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if a million nixers suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.#badbuzz— Mike Ross (@MikeRoss03) November 15, 2017