World Rugby chief confident in ‘safety plans’ for Rugby World Cup in France

Dylan Coetzee
Rugby World Cup trophy

World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin insists the tournament organisers are preparing for a “wide range of different scenarios” and will be able to manage any protests or events that threaten safety at the Rugby World Cup in France.

The global showpiece is set to smash records with 600,000 international visitors expected in France, with tickets almost at 2.5 million sold.

Protest risk

With an event of this magnitude, there is always the risk of protest, as seen already this year with the Just Stop Oil protestors at the Premiership final.

There may also be safety issues as witnessed in the UEFA Champions League last year where chaos ensued, with fans being affected by congestion and questionable policing.

Nevertheless, Gilpin believes the event which begins in 100 days, starting on September 8, is prepared for any eventuality.

“Like every major event, we are planning all the time for such a wide range of different scenarios, and protests of any nature are certainly part of that,” said Gilpin.

“Of course, it is an area of challenging concern, but it is an area we are planning for, and like all of those scenarios we are working incredibly closely with the authorities in the various host cities.

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

“There are lessons to learn, clearly, from incidents like at the Stade de France and the Champions League final last year. There has been an enormous amount of debate around that.

“We are confident in those plans, but like any time we are talking about safety, we are not complacent and there is a huge amount of work that has been done and that will continue throughout the next 100 days and the tournament.

“A Rugby World Cup over seven weekends, 48 matches in nine cities is a big undertaking, so we are pretty relentless about the planning from a safety perspective.

“We can reassure rugby fans that are travelling to France, or that will be in France for the tournament, that their safety along with the teams and the players are our top priority. The French government, the cities are all part of that effort.”

Springbok legend and 2019 World Cup winner Tendai Mtawarira handed the trophy over in France to mark the 100-day countdown.

Competitive event expected

Regarding the rugby itself, Gilpin believes that this edition of the global showpiece will be well contested with never seen before levels of engagement.

“We have seen in the (world) rankings, it has never been so competitive,” he added.

“On any given day, there are six or seven teams that can beat each other. We’ve got more uncertainty about our World Cup champions than ever before. That all leads into the excitement we are seeing.

“Our message is that we are in great shape. From our perspective, never has a country been so excited to host a Rugby World Cup – the levels of engagement are fantastic – and never has a country been so ready to host a Rugby World Cup.

“We know from ticket purchasing that more than 600,000 international fans will be welcomed to France, which is a record for any rugby event.

“The organisers have achieved, and will achieve, record ticket sales for RWC, selling out 2.5million tickets. It has been the hottest ticket for any rugby event to date.”

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