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Still a week to defend France’s Rugby World Cup bid

French Rugby Federation President Bernard Laporte. Reuters/Paul Childs

France’s top Rugby official said Wednesday the country still had a week to convince the sport’s authorities to let France to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, despite a report giving South Africa the edge.

French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte assured lawmakers that France still has time to defend its bid to host the sport’s top event in 2023.

“We’ve been around the world promoting our bid, trying to show that it’s the best one out there, and we have to keep it up for another week,” Laporte said. “We know the Irish are doing the same thing and that South Africa are doing the same thing. But everything’s still to play for.”

Last week, a technical report placed South Africa ahead of France and Ireland in an overall assessment on a range of criteria.

In recent days Laporte has ramped up the rhetoric over the report, implying France outperforms South Africa on doping regulations and security, though he took a more measured tone in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

“The bookmakers are saying South Africa is the favourite and it’s up to us to raise the stakes and show that France’s bid is the best bid.”

Decision next week

The World Rugby Council will make the final decision in London next Wednesday, 15 November.

Laporte’s visit to the lower house of parliament also brought questions over a sports ministry probe into whether a company he founded and partly owns was in a position to unfairly profit from broadcasting rights.

“Do you believe the various conflicts of interest in which you are implicated could harm the integrity of French rugby and hurt the chances of France’s bid to host the tournament?” asked Michel Larrive, an MP with the left-wing party France Unbowed.

“We will respect the report” of the ministry’s investigators, said Laporte, who followed his career as a rugby union player as head coach of the French national team from 1999 to 2007 before serving as French secretary of state for sport from 2007 to 2009 during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy.

“I launched two [similar inquiries] when I was minister,” Laporte responded, before telling Larrive, “You have never been a minister and you certainly never will be.”