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'We're very confident... We are on track, we have sold the tickets' - Rivoal

By Ian Cameron
The Webb Ellis Cup is photographed overlooking Paris (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Jacques Rivoal, the chairman of Rugby World Cup France 2023, believes the key difference between this year’s showpiece and the super popular 2007 edition of the tournament will be legacy. Over 2.2 million people attended the 2007 event 16 years ago and it is widely considered one of the sport’s best World Cups. The French are now determined to carry on where they left off and, where possible, even exceed that edition.


RugbyPass recently caught up with Rivoal and Michel Poussau, the World Rugby chief of events, and the pair spoke about the goals of the tournament, what fans can expect, and what the all-important legacy of the competition will be.

What can fans expect from Rugby World Cup 2023?
Jacques Rivoal: The fans will have a big event. It will be an exceptional celebration. To show all the values and history of France. We will welcome over 600,000 foreign visitors. We are able to propose a huge fan experience for foreign visitors. In Lille, in Marseille, Nice and Bordeaux, we have museums, history, architecture and gastronomy.

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Our target is to provide a better financial result than in the past, (be it) France in 2007 or England in 2015. Our target will be to beat those two World Cups. For us, that is a reference. Japan is difficult to compare due to a different cultural approach to the tournament.

It will be very good in terms of financial results. We will have a legacy and the financial results will contribute to the development of rugby in France.


Michel Poussau: What we can expect from a competitiveness point of view is an amazing tournament because of where rugby is at the moment. We have newcomers like Chile and countries like Portugal coming back. We have never had 20 teams so close to each other. From a competition point of view, it will be the most competitive World Cup ever.


The scope of the tournament will see games hosted in less traditional cities as well as the French rugby strongholds, what is the thinking?
Poussau: This World Cup is about territories and all of France. You mention Lille but you can go to Nantes, which isn’t traditionally a rugby territory you would say. I remember in 2007 some of the best games happened in Nantes and these guys are still holding all of these memories, so we are sure the tournament going to Nantes will be amazing and a boost to rugby in the area.

Rivoal: This is the first time we will deliver a Rugby World Cup with a very strong action plan in terms of corporate social responsibility. We have to work on this topic. Not only 48 matches and 600,000 foreign visitors, but on top of that we have to work on corporate social responsibility… It’s fully integrated into the budget.

What lessons were learned from previous Rugby World Cups and, in particular, France 2007?
Poussau: Lessons are learned following each of these events [Rugby World Cups]. They are not things we want to do completely differently. Overall we want to carry on the legacy of 2007 and as much as possible exceed what was a very big, popular success.

Rivoal: 2007 was a success. Perhaps the weakness of this tournament was the legacy. We were told we do not have time to prepare the legacy of the (2007) event. This is what we will try to improve this year. We have a training programme with more than 3,000 youths working already in rugby clubs. This will be the first proof of our legacy to help rugby to be better than before.


We are awaiting the increase in participation in club rugby. Our forecast is for 30 per cent more youth involvement at clubs. We have to improve the clubs in terms of equipment to be sure to welcome with a good level of standards the huge increase in participants.

Fan zones and cultural events have become synonymous with Rugby World Cups. Is what happens off the pitch as important as what happens on it? 
Poussau: This will definitely be part of the celebration. We will have rugby villages and we have very strong plans for France 2023 and the host cities. That will definitely be part of the journey and part of the event. When you speak about France and the French, the country is really ready to welcome the world.

We know from recent studies that 75 per cent of the French know about the event and support the event. Nearly 90 per cent of the French will have an interaction with the tournament itself. It will be different from Japan as the French population is different. You have mentioned the welcoming habits of our Japanese friends and it will be different in France, but the territories and people will be there to welcome fans from all over the world.

Jacques Rivoal, the chairman of the 2023 Rugby World Cup organising committee (Photo by Joel Saget/AFP)

Seven months out from the Rugby World Cup, do you feel pressure?
Rivoal: I would not use the word pressure. I would use the word excitation. All the stakeholders are very, very motivated now we are in the year of the Rugby World Cup. The host cities, the sponsors, the rugby players, the clubs, the professional clubs – all the people are very motivated about the event. It’s not a negative pressure. It’s a positive pressure.

Excitation is increasing. We are very confident about the event. We are on track. We have sold the tickets. We have all the sponsors. Now we enter an operative phase. This week we start with the venue tour. We have 100 people working in the nine host cities to prepare the welcome of the competition. With all the specialists of the back office of the event.


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