What higher manner for hosts France to arrange for the World Cup spectacular than with an excellent old style sideshow? And France duly delivered every week earlier than their opening match towards New Zealand with a rumpus over the collection of Bastien Chalureau after Paul Willemse withdrew from the 33-man squad with a thigh harm.
Several politicians condemned Chalureau’s inclusion on account of his conviction for spewing racist insults whereas brawling in a parking lot in Toulouse with former rugby gamers Yannick Larguet and Nassim Arif in January 2019.
He has not denied the late-night fisticuffs however has appealed towards the racist abuse aspect.
“This story has been around for years and I totally deny the allegations of racism,” Chalureau stated at a swiftly convened press convention simply earlier than the World Cup.
“Since the first day I’ve admitted my mistakes but denied allegations of racism,” he added. “I am not a racist. I wanted to come and say it out loud because it is something that affects also my team and my family.”
Chalureau has gained six caps since his conviction in 2020 so the timing of the complaints seems moderately leftfield.
“While awaiting the final judicial decision, everyone must calmly allow the law to do its job, while respecting the presumption of innocence,” stated the French sports activities minister Amelie Oudea-Castera after speaking to the French rugby federation chief Florian Grill and the France staff supervisor Raphael Ibanez.
Questions over tactical formations can be the same old fare for the France head coach Fabien Galthie moderately than quandaries over the prison standing of a ahead.
But Galthie harvested the grist along with his customary fortitude.
“We want to unite and share with all French people,” stated the previous France worldwide skipper projecting at the least the egalite and fraternite strands of the French nationwide boast within the run-up to the opening match.
“For four years, racism has had no place in our team, it has no place in rugby. Integrity is a fundamental value of our team and our sport,” the 54-year-old added.
Skipper Antoine Dupont echoed his boss. “We were already aware of the case, which is still under investigation. Things are going very well with Bastien.
“Since he joined us, his angle has all the time been exemplary, each on and off the pitch. And, for us, that is a very powerful factor proper now.”
Resounding endorsements for Chalureau. And why not? Yet wily bookmakers could open the odds on the 31-year-old scoring the winning try in the final and then the appeal judges finding him guilty of racist abuse.
Such turns would propel France into the existential gloaming inhabited by the Spanish women’s football team following their victory in the World Cup final and federation chief Luis Rubiales kissing one of the players Jenni Hermoso.
But there are seven matches to go before such theoretical twirls come into play. What is certain is that Chalureau’s licit fighting spirit will be in huge demand during the next month of group stage matches.
After France tackle New Zealand at the Stade de France, they play Uruguay in Lille on 14 September, Namibia on 21 September in Marseille and Italy on 6 October in Lyon.
France are expected to progress along with New Zealand from Group A and in the last eight will meet one of the top two from Group B charmingly named the group of death.
Not unreasonably either. It contains three of the world’s top five teams. Defending champions South Africa are ranked second behind Ireland and Scotland are fifth. Tonga and Romania -15th and 19th respectively are the makeweights.
“We have been open and sincere about our ambitions,” said Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton, whose team has been top of the tree since the middle of July 2022 when they won a Test series in New Zealand for the first time in eight visits.
The Irish underlined their credentials for the World Cup earlier this year with the Grand Slam – winning all five games – in the European Six Nations tournament.
And they will be expected to launch their tilt for a first trophy with a handsome win over Romania in Bordeaux on 9 September.
They take on Tonga a week later before the crunch clashes with South Africa on 23 September at the Stade de France and Scotland a fortnight later at the same venue.
More than 12,000 fans greeted the Irish team on 2 September at the Stade de la Vallee du Cher near their base in Tours for a warm-up session.
“Two years in the past we began with a recce and the administration felt that the individuals of Tours actually wished us to be right here,” said Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
“They have proved that with their actions and the connection constructed and we’re delighted with the individuals in Tours and the lodge. This is what World Cups are all about, ensuring that you just perceive what it is all about on the bottom and really feel the environment with the individuals.”
Away from the parish of Tours, organisers expect 600,000 fans from outside France during the next seven weeks. Chileans will be among the throng to follow their team’s first appearance at the tournament.
“It is an incredible second for the nation and hopefully the primary of many,” said the Chile head coach Pablo Lemoine. “We are actually trying ahead to being In France.”
The South Americans, who have been drawn in Group D, start their campaign on 10 September against Japan in Toulouse. Six days later in Bordeaux, they face Samoa. After a match against England in Lille, there is an all-South American affair against Argentina on 30 September at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes.
The Chileans, ranked 22nd in the world, are not expected to reach the knockout stages.
“They got here by means of a contact course of to qualify for the group levels,” said Bill Beaumont, who heads the global game’s governing body World Rugby.
“They’ve succeeded and I believe it reveals the funding that has been made by World Rugby in South America. We’re trying ahead to seeing each Argentina and Uruguay however particularly Chile of their first World Cup.”
Despite the development of the game on that continent, teams from the southern hemisphere have won eight of the nine World Cup tournaments.
South Africa and New Zealand boast three apiece and Australia – drawn in Group C with Wales, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal – have won the Webb Ellis trophy twice.
England – where the game originated – are the only European nation to have lifted the prize. Two hundred years on from the first rugby matches, England are far from favourites for the tournament which will be played with greater scrutiny on high tackles.
The matches around France will witness the bunker review system in which a player sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes with a yellow card can have that punishment upgraded to red if the match officials have another look at the video images and decide the ultimate sanction is required.
That could bring much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. It might also encourage more disciplined aggression during the quest for glory which will culminate on 28 October at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.
If France – losers in the final in 1987, 1999 and 2011 – were to win the crown, it would provide a rare moment of national unity and glee for Emmanuel Macron’s beleaguered adminsitration.
The president visited the France squad at their training camp just before the start of the tournament. Galthie – clad in shorts, T-shirt and trainers – shot the breeze with Macron sporting his omnipurpose blue suit. Macron listened studiously, arms folded and brow furrowed.
Macron emerged from the powwow and told the pride of French rugby that he, like the rest of the nation, was solidly behind them.
“It’s as a result of you’ll be brothers in arms, who will combat from the primary to the final second, below the steerage of the coach, that you’ll win and do what it takes,” Macron added.
“We have typically come inside a stone’s throw. This time, we are going to get it. Never overlook this: the staff is larger than you, the nation is larger than every of us. Step up, be yourselves, no more, not much less.”
Inspirational phrases to gamers believing that is their second. They can show their magnificence in seven video games over seven weeks.
Originally printed on RFI