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World Cup to be a 'timely' reprieve from rugby's off-field problems?

SPOTLIGHT World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said this year’s Rugby World Cup is “timely” as Wednesday marks 100 days to go until the start of the tournament.

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The competition begins on September 8 as hosts France play three-time winners New Zealand.

Problems over recent months have included clubs in England continuing to experience financial woes and Welsh players threatening to strike over contract problems.

In December, former World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte stood down from his role as the French Rugby Federation’s president following his conviction for corruption.

“I think it is certainly timely for the sport as a whole that we are going to have this incredible opportunity to celebrate all the best things around rugby,” Gilpin told reporters last week.

“We know it has been challenging times for a number of professional leagues, certainly for a number of clubs.”

“Rugby World Cup comes at a great time,” he added.

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More than 600 000 international travellers are expected to head to nine host cities across France for the eight-week showpiece with tickets for all games sold out far in advance.

A growing number of high-level global sporting events such as Premier League football games and the Tour de France have been impacted by protests from environmental groups.

“We are planning all the time for such a wide range of different scenarios, and protests of any nature are certainly part of that,” Gilpin said before activists halted last weekend’s English Premiership final in London.

“While I am sure, as there is in every major event and every Rugby World Cup, there will be incidents we need to deal with, I think we will be well prepared for that,” he added.

‘Humble’ France

The Webb Ellis trophy arrived in France on Tuesday as former South Africa prop Tendai Mtawarira, who won the competition in Japan 2019, handed over the silverware to organisers in France.

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On Wednesday, monuments across the country including Paris’ Arc de Triomphe will be lit up to mark the date as the excitement for the tournament goes up a gear.

French supporters’ enthusiasm has grown with the impressive on-field performances by Les Bleus since former -captain Fabien Galthie took over as head coach after the last World Cup.

Skipper Antoine Dupont is the poster boy for this generation of France players, who have tasted success at club level in the Top 14 and the Champions Cup as well as with a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Last week, the Toulouse scrumhalf was presented with his waxwork replica at a Paris museum, alongside Frederic Michalak, who was his country’s standout player when they lost in the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup, also on home soil.

“We’re not far, honestly we’re getting closer and closer even if we do have objectives with our clubs,” 26-year-old Dupont told reporters.

“It’s obvious that it’s in our heads, and we want to win the cup.

“We know where we’re at, we’re confident and we’re also humble because of our position and that France have never succeeded in winning it up until now.”

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