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World Rugby's technical review board delivered its verdict on Wednesday (NZT) after a painstaking process, which included a 220 page document that unanimously recommended South Africa host the 2023 World Cup.
The recommendation is not binding, with World Rugby still to meet on November 15 and only then deliver the decisive decision after votes from 39 member unions and various regional bodies are cast.
Candidate nations do not vote, but the Six Nations and Sanzaar powerhouses have three each, and the process features independent auditors.
World Rugby's 20-strong review board considered everything from stadiums to finance, transport, training facilities and accommodation from the three bids. It would, therefore, be a surprise if this recommendation is overturned.
South Africa is understood to have missed out on bids to host the last two World Cups.
In September, South African rugby chief executive Jurie Roux told the New Zealand Herald he and the government had guaranteed World Rugby a £160 million ($NZ308 million) return - more than France's minimum £150 million and Ireland's £120 million offer.
"It would deliver something to our country that would once again unify us," Roux told the Herald in September.
"Sport unifies our country like nothing else. We are going through a time in our country where there is a lot of negativity and something like this would be positive to look forward to."
South Africa's hosting of the 1995 event, a tournament won by the Springboks after a gripping extra time final against the All Blacks, is widely considered one of the most successful and iconic in history. On and off the field, it helped unite a divided nation and finished with Nelson Mandela in all his glory.
"It's a great place to tour and I'm sure they're more than capable of hosting a successful World Cup," All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino said. "It will be great for their country."
After the announcement, Roux promised South Africa would once again create a memorable occasion.
"We told the World Rugby Council that we would deliver a triple win tournament when we presented to them last month - a win for the game with record receipts; a win for the fans with an unforgettable tournament in a bucket-list destination and, most importantly, a win for the players with the most athlete-centric event in the tournament's history," Roux said.
"This nomination is confirmation of that belief and reward for an outstanding bid in which no detail was too small to be addressed or any question not comprehensively answered. We are 100%confident that the commitments we made in our document will be delivered. We will make all of world rugby proud of South Africa 2023."
France last hosted the World Cup in 2007 but the decision is particularly disappointing for Ireland. Their bid, which finished no higher than second in all categories, passion and intimate nature had the potential to recreate special scenes felt throughout New Zealand in 2011.
World Rugby and Rugby World Cup Limited chairman Bill Beaumont felt the right recommendation had been reached.
"This is the first Rugby World Cup host selection to take place following a complete redesign of the bidding process to promote greater transparency and maximise World Rugby's hosting objectives.
"The comprehensive and independently scrutinised evaluation reaffirmed that we have three exceptional bids but it also identified South Africa as a clear leader based on performance against the key criteria, which is supported by the board in the recommendation."