French legend not stunned by WC 2023 glory
The French will host the quadrennial showpiece for the second time having seen off South Africa – who won the trophy when France hosted it in 2007 – beating them in a second round of voting by the World Rugby Council whilst Ireland were eliminated in the first round.
French rugby icon Sebastien Chabal, who played under Laporte when France reached the 2007 World Cup semi-finals, said he wasn't shocked by the outcome.
"Surprised? No," said Chabal, who was part of the presentation team in September and returned for the vote.
"We were involved in a match and we had the ambition of winning it.
"It is certain that over the past fortnight the cards were dealt in a different fashion and it was imperative we fought to the last minute."
Chabal said that certain misunderstandings in the pre-vote report had needed to be explained to the electorate – the World Rugby Council – in the intervening two weeks.
"It was necessary to explain to the presidents [of the federations] that we were stunned by certain points in the report and that we were definitely the best candidate.
"They listened to us and the outcome of the vote closes the debate.
"We were in extra time, we fought hard and defended our qualities,"
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French Rugby chief Bernard Laporte echoed the Chabal's sentiments. Stating that France's liking for a fight and its commitment to prevail helped the bidding team to never surrender.
"We [the French] like fighting, we like winning and winning something difficult," said Laporte, who had been publicly rebuked by World Rugby for his criticisms of the controversial pre-vote technical report which saw South Africa listed above France and Ireland
"For France when you say it is worth one billion euros for shopkeepers and businesses, of course that is good, but more importantly jobs will also be created.
"When you wake up in the morning like today and you think, 'We lose, so does France', it sends a chill down your spine but we succeeded,"
Laporte, however, refused to be drawn when asked about remarks by South Africa rugby CEO Jurie Roux that World Rugby should next time make the evaluation report findings binding and that the process had become "opaque" over the last fortnight with the backlash by the French and the Irish who queried how South Africa topped several of the categories.
"I will not comment on other peoples' remarks," said Laporte.
Laporte, who awaits a report from a government-appointed enquiry into whether he put pressure on a federation committee to reduce a fine on the bid's biggest donor Montpellier president Mohed Altrad, said it had been a remarkable journey in a very short space of time having really got down to work on their dossier only just over a year ago.
"The first time we worked on the dossier was last year," said Laporte.
"We knew we were a bit late when it was launched, three years behind the others.
"I recall it well because they stopped me holidaying on August 30 when they got in touch with me!
"Some said why not finish with the bid, but there was no way we would.
"Economically it is a great result as it will go to the amateur game.
"Every time I saw the club chairmen I said it is your bid. We fought for it, it is the bid for all French rugby.
The speed with which the team worked was remarkable and in five months we had a 500-page dossier and I have to give the credit for that to Claude Atcher (director of the bid), it is everything to do with you,"