World Rugby released a bid evaluation report by its experts and external consultants, and said South Africa was the unanimous pick.
The World Rugby Council is set to follow that recommendation when the final decision is made with a vote in London next month.
It ranked third with 72.25%, while France was second with 75.88% and South Africa rated highest with 78.97%. "A new match is beginning, and will play out until the sovereign vote on 15 November".
The intensive selection process determined a financial model and the viability of each country to host the tournament, as well as ensuring sufficient revenues to continue the development of World Rugby.
The sight of Nelson Mandela in a Springbok shirt presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar as South Africa triumphed on home soil is probably the most iconic image in the tournament's history.
The board evaluated the bids of all three candidates, with France the other potential host, before issuing its report but they do not hold the power to make the final decision.
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The candidate nations do not have a vote, but there are three each for the rest of the Six Nations and SANZAAR countries; England, Italy, Scotland, Wales, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. These include venues and infrastructure, commercial success, operational excellence, an inspirational vision, political and financial stability, public and private sector guarantees - and suitable climate and geography.
"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".
"We absolutely believe Ireland can secure the tournament for 2023", he said.
In assessing the "cities" put forward in the Irish bid, the report said that one is "significantly smaller than the other bidders" smallest city", later saying that Killarney "is not sizeable with less experience in large scale global events'.
"Our team will compete to the final whistle as we bid to turn our historic bid plans into reality".
Ireland's bid chairman, Dick Spring, has vowed that Ireland can still convince enough members of the World Rugby Council to award them the tournament. There were fears in South Africa that the aborted Commonwealth Games hosting might adversely affect the Rugby World Cup bid.
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