New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew. Photo: EPA/DAVID MOIR

LONDON - New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew on Thursday defended a shock decision to stage the 2023 World Cup in France, but conceded it looked "odd" that his favoured candidate South Africa missed out.

Tew confirmed the New Zealanders voted for South Africa in both rounds of the bid process, in line with recommendations from a independent report commissioned by the sport's governing body World Rugby.

But France was awarded the hosting rights after garnering the the most votes in both rounds, over rival bids from South Africa and Ireland.

Tew said he was "not entirely surprised" the report was ultimately ignored and said the decision of the World Rugby Council was "democracy in action".

"In the end, we live in a democracy and democracies do funny things sometimes," he told Radio New Zealand from London, where the decision was announced.

"In this case it's produced a result that people weren't expecting."

Tew said the selection process had generated three outstanding bids, any of which could have won.

However, he admitted the fact that World Rugby went against its own report's recommendations would raise eyebrows.

"I guess it does look odd and people can speculate around that as much as they want," he told Radio Sport.

He said France and Ireland had every right to challenge the report's findings and lobby World Rugby Council members for support.

He believed France would host an outstanding tournament in 2023.

"It's a country full of history and class, the food and the wine, it's just outstanding," he said.

"But we'd have equally enjoyed going to South Africa... we particularly feel for South Africa who probably thought they had it won a couple of weeks ago."

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