A hundred days before the World Cup, the boss of international rugby considers “essential to grow this sport”

In a hundred days, all eyes from Ovalie will be on the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis): Friday, September 8, the XV of France will face the All Blacks (New Zealand), for the first match of the 2023 edition of the Rugby World Cup. “Never has a nation been so ready and so enthusiastic to welcome” the event, rejoices Alan Gilpin, managing director of World Rugby, the body governing world rugby, interviewed by The world.

On the occasion of the J − 100, Wednesday May 31, the Briton projects himself on the future of his sport. Starting with what he anticipates like the World Cup “the most competitive in history”. If the French supporters would easily be satisfied with a tournament dominated by Antoine Dupont and his teammates – and finished with a trophy on October 28 –, World Rugby prefers the current state of the plateau. “We have many teams capable of beating any opponent, very close to each other.develops Mr. Gilpin. It promises a truly uncertain and wonderfully competitive tournament. Exactly what we want to see! »

Rugby is very popular in its historic areas – starting with France, where all the tickets for the 2023 World Cup have quickly sold out – but it remains minor on a global scale. “While we now have 132 member nations of World Rugby, we are aware that it is a powerful sport in only a handful of these countries.recognizes the Briton. Also, it is essential to grow this sport, to make it a real world sport, which it is not yet. »

For the one who was the director of the 2019 World Cup in Japan (won by South Africa), this “globalization” goes through the conquest of new territories, such as Asia four years ago, helped by the incorporation of sport, in its declination to seven, in the program of the Olympic Games.

Developing the game while “preserving its DNA”

Year of the World Cup, 2023 also celebrates the bicentenary of rugby. “This sport was born out of disruption, when someone picked up a soccer ball and started running with it”, recalls Alan Gilpin. According to a tenacious, if widely disputed legend, rugby was born in 1823, when William Webb Ellis, a “fine disregard for the rules” (a trait of “contempt for the rules”) would have made a mad dash, ball in hand, in the midst of partners and opponents taken aback.

Read our story (1999): Article reserved for our subscribers In 1823, William Webb Ellis invented rugby without knowing it

Would the “globalization” desired by the authorities also go through an evolution of the game? “We need to keep that mindset of innovation, born out of disruption, but trying to find the right balance between continuing to make the game more entertaining, easier to understand and more engaging for young audiences.believes the director general of World Rugby. But preserving at all costs the DNA of our sport: a fight for the ball. »

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