Interview with Frédéric Michalak, ambassador for the Rugby World Cup 2023

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Star du rugby français et ambassadeur de la Coupe du Monde de Rugby 2023, Frédéric Michalak présente les atouts de la France à découvrir lors de la compétition.
© France 2023 - Star du rugby français et ambassadeur de la Coupe du Monde de Rugby 2023, Frédéric Michalak présente les atouts de la France à découvrir lors de la compétition.

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 16 August 2023, updated on 22 May 2024

In the world of rugby, Frédéric Michalak is an icon! The leading scorer in the history of the French rugby union team, with 426 points, five-time winner of the European Cup, three-time champion of France, four-time winner of the 6 Nations Tournament, the Toulousan retired from rugby in 2018, but his sporting retirement has not taken him away from the stadiums, let alone from his sport of passion. In the run-up to the 2023 RWC, he is continuing to put his heart and soul into making the World Cup a great celebration of sport, sharing and transmission. As patron of the "Sharing the French Flair" campaign, he takes us behind the scenes of the preparations for the event and dribbles like a connoisseur through the French regions to give us his favourites and good advice.

France will host the 10th Rugby World Cup from 8 September to 28 October 2023, with 10 host cities in the front line. What are you expecting from this event?

Frédéric Michalak : First and foremost, I'm looking forward to a great party! By organising the 2023 Rugby World Cup, France hopes to welcome as many visitors and supporters as possible from all over the world to enjoy the beautiful sport of rugby. The whole country is gearing up, and ten host cities - Paris, Saint-Denis, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse, Lille and Saint-Etienne - are in the starting-blocks to pull out all the stops and make sure the festivities go down a treat. Over and above the economic impact of the World Cup, we want to make it a very festive occasion, enabling all the participants to enjoy a unique experience in this magnificent country that is France. France.fr : In your opinion, what are the assets that make France stand out when it comes to organising a World Cup?

France.fr : In your opinion, what are the assets that make France stand out from the crowd when it comes to hosting a World Cup?

F.M : For the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the whole world will be gathering in France and we have everything we need to host it in the best possible conditions: superb cities, renowned gastronomy, exceptional restaurants, magnificent hotels and ultra-modern stadiums at the cutting edge of innovation, like all the services put in place for this event. For example, the organising committee paid particular attention to transport and modes of travel to ensure that all participants were transported in an eco-responsible manner. Similarly, a local approach has been favoured in the choice of partners, sub-contractors, etc. To ensure that this World Cup is as sustainable an event as possible.

France.fr : How did France get to the forefront of the battle to win this lasting challenge?

F.M. : With a truly ambitious environmental policy that's also highly connected! All the host cities, for example, will be offering car-sharing solutions, green taxis and scooters, electric buses, etc. In terms of training too, and this is a first for this type of event, the Organising Committee has decided to involve the younger generation in the preparations for the Rugby World Cup through the Campus 2023 project. Hundreds of young people will be taking advantage of the event to train in sports-related professions through apprenticeships. They will be the players in this World Cup and, in the future, they will be our legacy, available to federations and clubs in all sporting disciplines.

France.fr : So the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France will be in tune with current social and environmental issues?

F.M. : Yes, the Rugby World Cup 2023 marks a turning point towards a new generation of sporting events that are in tune with the times. As we saw at the last football World Cup, some of the issues addressed go beyond the sporting framework. We need to talk about them. The idea is also to take advantage of the media amplification to get messages across. The ecological impact of the competition, waste management and the alternatives that exist today... It's important to raise these issues! We're preparing the world of tomorrow, the sport of tomorrow. This World Cup also has a responsibility, and France's commitment as the host country is strong.

France.fr : What are the values of sport and rugby that have stayed with you throughout your life?

F.M.: Team spirit and sharing, fair play, respect for others - these are the values of rugby and my own, and ones that everyone can put into practice in their daily and professional lives. On a rugby pitch, there is always total commitment. The supporters are also committed but always fair. This is the spirit in which the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be held. You can come as a family or as a couple and share all the good times in the stadiums and host cities. From the outset, the Organising Committee has wanted to make the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France an event that will go far beyond the competition itself, which is already exceptional in terms of the line-up of teams.

France.fr : What advice would you give fans for a successful stay in France?

F.M. : Of course, it all depends on the team they're coming to support. But whatever matches they attend and whatever towns they stay in, they'll be spoilt for choice. That's the richness of France, a country where each region has its own specificities, traditions, gastronomy, different accents and always a warm welcome. I think the stadiums will be full everywhere because there is so much enthusiasm for this competition.

> Discovering France will be the icing on the cake for supporters and those accompanying them.

Those staying in Toulouse, for example, my home town, will be sure to visit the markets, taste our famous Toulouse sausage and discover the beauty of the city's heritage: the Capitole, the Saint-Sernin basilica and the Jacobins convent. In Paris, you'll need to take in all the great museums and take the time to sit out on the terrace, a very French speciality, for example in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In Marseille, what a treat to sample a bouillabaisse overlooking the Old Port.

France.fr : What are your suggestions for a successful 3rd half?

Firstly, a word of warning: the third half should always be a measured affair. And you can also have a lot of fun and share good times before matches. Whatever their programme, fans should not be short of opportunities to enjoy France in the off-season, starting with its fine restaurants and Michelin-starred establishments, of which there are almost 150 in Paris alone! They can also celebrate in the fan zones set up in all the cities for those who haven't managed to get tickets. They'll be able to experience the event differently, with a great atmosphere guaranteed. And in the stadiums, too, there will be plenty of opportunities for great 3rd halves. For example, the ultra-modern Groupama Stadium in Lyon, in the heart of the OL Valley, with its restaurants, hotels, leisure facilities and its Offside Gallery dedicated to the very best in street art. The Rugby World Cup 2023 will be a great celebration in a country that is ready and enthusiastically preparing for it.

France.fr : Personally, what are your favourite things about France?

F.M. : I love the sea as much as the mountains, and we're lucky to have both in France! For hiking, the Alps and the Pyrenees offer some magnificent itineraries. In my native south-west, just a few kilometres from Toulouse, in the Occitanie region, I've fallen in love with the Ariège, where my father built a little house near Castillon-en-Couserans and Lake Bethmale, a marvellous place in a green setting. My wife and I and our 3 children love going there as a family to cycle, fish, go for walks and recharge our batteries in the middle of nature. We'll be living in Toulon for a few more months, between Provence and the Côte d'Azur, before moving back to Paris where I'll be coaching a Parisian club, Racing 92. I also love the Mediterranean coast as far as Nice, with its nuggets like the island of Porquerolles, an oasis of calm in the off-season where you can enjoy all kinds of water sports. The hinterland of Provence is just as magnificent. For golf enthusiasts, I recommend the Domaine de Manville in Les Baux-de-Provence, certainly one of the most beautiful in France, with many others to choose from.

France.fr : So France is your favourite holiday destination?

F.M. : I'm going to make a confession. My wife is Australian and she's quite happy to be living in France! She often tells me that France is magnificent, with so many different landscapes in the same region, a heritage that's unique in the world, a renowned gastronomy, small villages, history... It's beautiful wherever you go! So, yes, this Rugby World Cup 2023 really is an exceptional opportunity to discover France. And the whole of France is ready to welcome the whole world!

Find out more: The official Rugby World Cup 2023 website

Also read: - Consult our city-by-city fan guides on our dedicated page - 6 reasons to come to France for the Rugby World Cup 2023

By France.fr

The magazine of the destination unravels an unexpected France that revisits tradition and cultivates creativity. A France far beyond what you can imagine…