Rugby: France 'confident' about staging World Cup despite Champions League fiasco

Mr Alan Gilpin says he is "confident" despite the security issues surrounding May's Champions League final held in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS - World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin says he is "confident" about fan safety with one year to go to the Rugby World Cup in France despite the security issues surrounding May's Champions League final held in Paris.

The kick-off for the football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid in the French capital was delayed as supporters struggled to get through bottlenecks accessing the ground and were repelled by teargas fired by local police.

After the game, supporters were preyed on by gangs as they made their way to public transport connections, with many reporting pickpocketing, muggings and threats as the police looked on.

"There's always more to learn from experiences of other events," Gilpin told AFP.

"There's been a significant amount of dialogue between the organising committee, the authorities in Paris and the government more broadly.

"We're confident that lessons can be learnt from that and we're also confident that we have a great security plan, spectator experience plan for the Stade de France."

Last week, Gilpin's counterpart in the organising committee, Claude Atcher, was suspended by French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera as a preliminary investigation into his management style found evidence of a deep social malaise within the organisation.

"First of all, the allegations around the treatment of staff in Paris, we've taken them seriously," Gilpin said. "We've discussed those with the relevant ministries and with the board of the organising committee.

"It's business as usual for us."

On Wednesday, World Rugby vice-president and French Rugby Federation chief Bernard Laporte went on trial facing charges of favouritism and corruption.

The 58-year-old former France coach is accused of favouritism in awarding a shirt sponsor contract for the national men's side to a close friend, Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier.

"As you can appreciate, it's not appropriate for World Rugby to comment on what is an ongoing proceeding and also a domestic matter," Gilpin said.

"We don't have any comment to make on that."

Liverpool fans wait as the final match against Real Madrid was delayed during UEFA Champions League in Paris on May 28. PHOTO: AFP

One spot left

The tournament opens with the in-form hosts welcoming three-time winners New Zealand to Paris with the final block of tickets for all games available online in the coming month. Supporters are limited to six spots per user.

Ireland beat the All Blacks in a historic Test series last month, while holders South Africa lost to Wales on home soil for the first time, making the list of contenders to clinch the Webb Ellis trophy a lengthy one.

"It's wonderful for the sport, it's going to get fans more excited than ever," Gilpin said. "I don't think we've ever been year out from a World Cup and had the depth of competitiveness that we've had now."

In November, the final group-stage place is up for grabs with 2031 hosts USA as well as Portugal, Kenya and Hong Kong taking part in a qualifying competition in France.

"The tournament will be hugely competitive," Gilpin said.

"Portugal go into that competition very well prepared.

"USA were disappointed that they hadn't qualified to date but there's a lot of planning with their preparation and Kenya and Hong Kong will be looking to cause an upset.

"That makes it exciting." AFP

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