Wednesday's decision, announced by World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, means France will be staging a World Cup for the second time, having previously hosted the 2007 edition.
France will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup after the Council of the sport's governing body went against the recommendations of an extensive evaluation report in a secret ballot on Wednesday.
South Africa was named as the preferred host nation by World Rugby's independent review, but that only sparked spiky reactions over that process from Ireland and France.
"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", Beaumont said.
Controversy has surrounded bids to host other major sporting events recently and although the Olympic Games remains a secret ballot, Federation Internationale de Football Association has changed its rules to make the vote for the next World Cup an open one.
"We produced a compelling bid document that earned the unanimous recommendation of the Rugby World Cup Ltd board".
In the second round, France secured 24 votes to South Africa's 15.
They hosted the soccer World Cup in 1998 and the European Championships in 2000 and 2016.
"It was a bid for all of French rugby".
"One has to ask the question, why has the vote gone against the recommendation when most of the unions said they would vote with the recommendation?" "The set of rules were broken during that process, which we are upset about", he said, offering a few opaque comments of his own. "When the Fifa World Cup was held there in 2010, we had a more than 20 percent uptake in players".
"We thank World Rugby for replying to our letter". Unfortunately, the disappointing thing was that Scotland and Wales didn't support us.
"We did everything in our power to bring the tournament to South Africa and we expected to have that right confirmed".
Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, said he was "desolated" and fumed about breaches of protocol by other bidders.
"We can not hide our desolation but, for the sake of rugby we wish the 2023 tournament hosts every success".