Popular fervor and “excitement” in high places for the final stretch before the competition

When so many clutches are gathered on the same stage, it means that a major event is fast approaching. This Monday morning, at Roland-Garros, the boss of World Rugby Bill Beaumont and his CEO Alan Gilpin, accompanied among others by the president of the organizing committee Jacques Rivoal, that of the FFR Florian Grill and the Minister of Sports Amélie Oudéa -Castera, launched the Rugby World Cup festivities, five days before the long-awaited opening match between France and New Zealand.

The president of the FFR Florian Grill, that of the organizing committee of France 2023 Jacques Rivoal, the boss of World Rugby Bill Beaumont and the Minister of Sports Amélie Oudéa-Castera (from left to right) pose with the trophy of the Coupe du world, September 4, 2023. – AFP

Bill Beaumont heaped praise on France, “a nation that loves rugby and big events” and the perfect place, he says, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the game’s creation by William Webb Ellis. “There is excitement. It is certain that we are going to experience an extraordinary moment in the history of our sport”, supported his right arm. Good words of circumstance, obviously, but which one can always take for what they are.

“Rugby is coming to settle throughout our territory”, welcomed Mr. France 2023, Jacques Rivoal. Even in areas not particularly known for their all-consuming passion for the oval ball. Florian Grill insisted on this point, he who relies on the competition to spread the practice. The images of the arrival in their base camp of the first teams, this weekend, are encouraging from this point of view and augur a great popular success. The Irish in Toursthe New Zealanders in Lyon, the Welsh in Versailles, the English in Le Touquet and even the Chileans in Perros-Guirec were all warmly received.

More predictably, the Blues have also tasted a rock star welcome, Saturday in Rueil-Malmaison (Hauts-de-Seine), where they will reside throughout the competition – apart from an interlude in Aix-en-Provence during the second half of September. More than 5,000 people came to greet them, an impressive demonstration of the enthusiasm that drives this team. Intoxicating and necessarily a little heavy, even if this group has been polite for four years for this meeting.

“Keep this freshness and relaxation that are our strength”

“We are aware of this expectation, of course, recognizes hooker Julien Marchand. We feel it every day, and we too can’t wait for it to start. We can imagine, after two months of working hard to arrive fully ready against the mythical All Blacks and launch as it should be an adventure that will not end until the end of October. The final days that still separate the players from kick-off seem like an eternity. It’s hard not to think about it from morning to night. “We are not far from that, indeed, smiles captain Antoine Dupont. But you have to be able to maintain a certain detachment, keep this freshness and this relaxation that are our strength. »

For that, even if a shadow has come to settle with the Bastien Chalureau controversy, this week will be as close as possible to what is usually done before a match. “We are not going to change everything now, observes coach Fabien Galthié. We went through 39 games together, we learned, we progressed. The benchmarks are there. “On the program, two training sessions on Monday and Tuesday, before delivering the team that will be lined up at the start in the evening. The intensity will go up a notch again on Wednesday, before entering into more tactical considerations on the eve of D-Day.

Anyway, everything has been thought out, calculated and planned for a long time by a staff that never ceases to praise its attention to the smallest detail. The rest is in the hands of the players, and their way of experiencing the event. “There are a lot of things happening around us, and so much the better, assures the third row Charles Ollivon. It’s up to us to sort things out, to be 100% focused during working hours and afterwards to mess around, to smile, to have a good time with each other. There is a balance to be found between all of this. “The recent past encourages optimism, even if nothing resembled what this team will experience on Friday at the stroke of 9:15 p.m.

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