The government has insisted that the bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup is still winnable, despite the publication of a review which recommended South Africa.
Sport minister Shane Ross and Minister of State Brendan Griffin said it is a “setback” that can be “overcome”.
The Rugby World Cup Board has made an initial recommendation that South Africa would be the most favoured country to be awarded the hosting duties.
A final decision will be made on November 15 when the World Rugby council convenes to cast its vote.
A technical review group scored each of the bids from Ireland, South Africa and France on five criteria which consist of; finance and tournament guarantees; venues and host cities; tournament infrastructure; vision and concept; and tournament organisation and schedule.
Mr Ross said: “This is a difficult setback but one that we can overcome. World Rugby made it clear that they were very impressed by the quality and detail of the Irish bid.”
He added: “The report highlighted that Ireland has all the capabilities to host an outstanding Rugby World Cup in 2023. I am strongly encouraged by two things: firstly that World Rugby have made it clear that ‘any of the three candidates could host a successful Rugby World Cup’.
“I am also encouraged that we ran both South Africa and France very close in the scoring.”
Mr Griffin also insisted: “This bid is still winnable. Ultimately, the decision rests with the council members of World Rugby. We can still do this.”
He added: “The IRFU will draw on all of their Irish spirit over the coming weeks to relay Ireland’s compelling proposition to the council ahead of the vote on November 15th.
“South Africa may be the favourite now, but the final vote is two weeks away, a long time in sport and politics.”