There are now just 100 days to go before the 2023 Rugby World Cup kicks off with a humdinger of an opening fixture, the host nation France taking on the All Blacks in Paris on September 8.
Every tournament needs its stars and amidst the hub-bub of this week’s midweek celebrations in France with ex-Springboks prop Tendai Mtawarira flying in with the Webb Ellis Cup, World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin delivered a message about some of the stars who will be looking to shine in September and October.
“What an incredible player,” said Gilpin about French skipper Dupont, who will go into the tournament as the Guinness Six Nations player of the championship for the third time in four years. “So much has been said and written about it and it’s not for me to add to that – but he is a superstar.
“We are definitely a sport that has put team first. It is so embedded in the values of the sport that we talk across the world at grassroots level but notwithstanding team first in what is probably the ultimate team sport, everyone loves to see a superstar and that is what you have in Dupont and Siya Kolisi and some of the other stars we are going to see in the tournament. We absolutely want guys to be fit and firing at their best.
“It was interesting seeing Johnny Sexton prowling the sidelines at the European Champions final because you want Johnny Sexton to be fit and to be ready. The same way with Dupont and with Kolisi and any number of others. This will be rugby’s biggest-ever stage.
“This will be the most watched, most eagerly anticipated rugby event ever, and for those players and individuals who have earned the right to be there, and in many cases had an incredible career to this point, you want them to be there for themselves.
“They deserve that stage in the spotlight but also to make sure that we have the most competitive and compelling tournament that we can have. They are all important and probably none more so than Dupont in terms of what that means for France to be at their absolute best, but the French have just that great depth in that team that it is the envy of the world at the moment.”
Host nations doing well at Rugby World Cup is always a good thing to enhance the atmosphere of the tournament. What does Gilpin make of the French renaissance under Fabien Galthie? “It’s hugely important to the build-up to any tournament that the national team is competitive and they certainly are that.
“We have got a French public that is immensely proud of a really, really spectacular current French national team, and we know we are going to have an incredibly competitive tournament. We open the tournament with an absolute blockbuster in terms of France-New Zealand and there is huge excitement around that team in general and what it might achieve.”