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A second round of voting was required after votes were initially split between South Africa, Ireland and France with the latter emerging successful in the second round.
The outcome will be considered not only a shock, but a major embarrassment to World Rugby who were hopeful that by having all three bids independently assessed, the vote would have been a straightforward case of rubber stamping the preferred option.
The members weren't bound to vote in accordance with the recommendation but all had agreed to the new process having expressed concerns that the horse trading associated with previous World Cup hosting bids had to stop.
Both France and Ireland, though, have been vocal in their displeasure with the independent assessment which placed them well behind South Africa.
The French in particular rubbished the methodology and it is believed they, and Ireland, have been lobbying hard behind the scenes, for the last two weeks trying to curry favour with voting members.
World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont, said: "Congratulations to France on being elected Rugby World Cup 2023 host. They presented a very strong and comprehensive bid, which clearly resonated with the council today.
"We had three outstanding host candidates, who raised the bar and overwhelmingly demonstrated that they were all capable of hosting an exceptional Rugby World Cup. There was very little to choose between the candidates and this was reflected in the independently-audited evaluation report.
"I would like to pay tribute to Ireland and South Africa for their dedication throughout a rigorous, and transparent process and hope that they will bid again. We now look forward to working in partnership with France to deliver what I am sure will be a very successful Rugby World Cup in 2023."